In D.C.: A few, cool, employee-owned hardware stores

After nearly 20 years in business, 13-store chain embraces an ESOP.
a group of people holding a sign
Marc Friedman and Gina Schaefer.

The largest locally owned hardware store chain in the Nation’s Capital is selling their company – to their employees. Today, A Few Cool Hardware Stores (AFCHS), a group of 13 Ace Hardware stores located in the DC and Baltimore metro areas, announced their plan to sell ownership of their company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP.  

With 14 million employee owners across 7,000 companies nationally, ESOPs offer employees stake in a company through a stock allocation that accrues value over time, much like a 401(K) plan. The amount of stock distributed is determined by the number of employees receiving shares and each employee’s individual salaries- all at no cost to the employee. The benefits of this transition from privately-owned to employee-owned include increased staff engagement in decision making processes, personal wealth building, and an active investment in the success and health of the business. 

AFCHS owners Gina Schaefer and Marc Friedman will transfer ownership of the organization over the next several years through the ESOP’s trust under the name “The Cool Hardware Company”, with an upfront transfer of 30% of the company’s ownership on August 1, 2021.  

“The ESOP model allows us to give back to the employees who have done so much for our company, while still aligning with the culture we’re proud to have built over the last 20 years of business.” said Schaefer. 

Founded in 2003, the company is projected to transfer 100% ownership to their 250+ employees through the ESOP trust over the next several years.

a store front at day
Adams Morgan Ace Hardware in Washington, D.C. is one of 13 in the A Few Cool Hardware Stores family.