HARDWARE STORES

Westlake unveils a new store design in Missouri

BY Ken Clark

Among the new design elements of Westlake Ace Hardware’s Bolivar, Mo., location are an open-air entranceway, unique signing and decor, and browse-friendly lifestyle categories situated in the center of the store.

“We’ve spent the past year studying and analyzing everything we know about our customers; the products they need, their mind-set when they shop, and help they’re looking for,” said George Smith, CEO of Lenexa, Kan.-based Westlake Ace Hardware. “The Bolivar store is the culmination of that effort. I’m convinced we have created a store specifically designed to meet their needs and preferences.”

The hardware chain, a longtime Ace member that was recently purchased by Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware Corp., will hold a grand opening on March 15.

“With the addition of the Bolivar location, Westlake has introduced an innovative new store layout unlike anything we have ever done before. From the building materials to the floor plan, it is uniquely designed to deliver a noticeably superior shopping experience to our customers,” said Smith.

Designed by store design firm JGA, the 17,845-sq.-ft. building’s attached Garden Center is the first of its kind for Westlake. Additionally, the design incorporates construction materials and a design approach intended to provide an organic and modern feel, more natural light from garage-style doors and skylights, a wood and metal façade, and polished concrete floors. 

Though approximately half of Westlake stores currently have Garden Centers, the outdoor areas have not been directly accessible from the indoor Lawn & Garden Department. Not only does this new feature allow customers to more conveniently access products, especially during inclement weather, it also provides additional venues for the store to merchandise seasonal items in new and interesting ways, the company said. 

Westlake Ace Hardware was founded in 1905 and today operates 86 neighborhood hardware stores in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. It is a wholly owned and independently operated subsidiary of Ace Hardware Corp.

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Handy hires new director of operations

BY Ken Clark

As it plans for a reorganization and searches for a new CEO, Houston-based Handy Hardware Wholesale hired an Office Depot executive to head up its D.C. operations. 

In February, Handy Hardware hired J.R. Ferguson, a former senior distribution manager for Office Depot, as director of operations.

The co-op filed for bankruptcy protection in January. The company, which is expected to file its plan of reorganization in a matter of days, is continuing its search for a CEO

The most unpleasant aspect of Handy’s bankruptcy story is the loss of member equity. Class A and Class B shares once worth about $27 million today have no value.

“The fact that the dealers lost that investment is really bad — a disappointing situation,” said Morrie Aaron, president of MCA Financial Group, Handy’s hired-gun financial advisory firm specializing guiding the co-op through its restructuring. “But the mission of Handy will continue. And that is to be a low-cost no-frills supplier focused on a high level of customer service for its members."

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Small stores in a changing landscape

BY HBSDEALER Staff

An article on NorthJersey.com examines the strengths and challenges of the independent, neighborhood hardware store.

For various reasons, Northern New Jersey has been hit by three announced hardware store closings in less than three weeks. The stores are Mitchell Simon in Englewood; Ludewig’s Hardware in Teaneck; and Fort Lee Hardware & Supply Co. in Fort Lee.

While the closings reflect a changing retail landscape, the article draws on the collected experience of the region’s successful independents and examines the one-two punch of convenience and service as the hardware store’s most effective competitive advantage.

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