DISTRIBUTORS/CO-OPS

Promotions at PRO Group

Growing responsibility in the marketing and merchandising departments.

BY HBSDealer Staff

The Denver-based PRO Group, Inc. has promoted Alex Hernandez to Associate Merchandise Manager. Hernandez has been with PRO Group since 2014 and was previously Marketing Manager. Drew Eflin has also been promoted to Marketing Manager. Drew started with PRO Group in 2016 as a Marketing and Merchandising Coordinator.

Hernandez’s Merchandise Manager responsibilities include overseeing a long list of categories: apparel, Farm & Ag Supply, Home Hardware, Housewares, Paint & Stain, and Pet Supplies. He will work closely with manufacturers and distributors in the circular advertising process, coordinating special promotions and recruiting new vendors for the group at trade shows and conferences.

Eflin’s Marketing Manager responsibilities include managing and creating content for the company’s web sites and social media platforms and using digital marketing platforms for corporate communication. Additionally, he will be responsible for the PRO Hardware and FARM MART stores programs and will travel to distributor shows to interact with retailers as well as present advertising and marketing programs.

Eflin worked as a marketing assistant for AIM Investment Solutions prior to joining PRO Group.

“Alex and Drew have both been an asset to PRO Group and are valuable members of our team,” said Shari Kalbach, VP of PRO Group, Inc. “I look forward to their continued success at PRO in their new roles as they take on more responsibility and continue to create programs that help the independent distributors and retailers succeed.”

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Ace makes a giant pledge to children’s hospital

A $10 million gift to the Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

BY HBSDealer Staff

Ace Hardware has a long association with the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals. Today, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based co-op announced the Ace Hardware Foundation is making one of largest single gifts ever to the Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

The foundation pledged $10 million over five years.

“Our mission to be the ‘Helpful Place’ means much more to us than merely serving customers, it means making a commitment to help support children and families in our local Ace communities,” said Kane Calamari, president of the Ace Hardware Foundation. “Together with our Chicago area retailers, customers, vendors and corporate employees, Ace Hardware is pledging its support for Lurie Children’s campaign for every child and we hope others in the Chicago business community will join us.”

The gift is the foundation’s largest pledge to an individual hospital. It will help foster Lurie Children’s campaign for every child, which aims to accelerate research and support innovative programs at the hospital and in local communities.

“As one of Lurie Children’s most prominent and enduring corporate partners, Ace Hardware has played an important role in advancing our vision of a healthier future for every child and we’re proud to continue our work together,” said Patrick M. Magoon, President and CEO of Lurie Children’s. “This generous gift will have an immeasurable impact on our institution and the children and families we serve.”

Ace Hardware is committed to support the noble efforts of Lurie Children’s hospital, and the pledge of $10 million over a five-year period will help fund projects in patient care, research and advocacy. In addition, the gift will help support Lurie Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorder by funding critical research and specialized fellowship positions in hematology, oncology, neuro-oncology and stem cell transplant. In recognition of this gift, Lurie Children’s will dedicate a newly-developed space on the 17th floor as the Ace Hardware Inpatient Unit at the Lurie Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Ace Hardware is one of Lurie Children’s largest and longest standing corporate partners – having raised millions of dollars for Chicago’s kids since the beginning of its partnership with the hospital in 1991. Ace Hardware has also been the hospital’s largest corporate partner for the past two years, raising just over $1.7 million in 2016 and 2017 for a total of over $3.4 million. In addition, Ace Hardware has been a national partner for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for the last 27 years, raising over $93 million during that time. In 2017 alone, Ace raised $11 million for CMN Hospitals across the country.

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Dealer profile: K&B True Value

BY Ken Clark

The way Jared Littmann explains it, not much has changed at K&B True Value in Annapolis, Md., since ACON Investments closed the deal on its 70% purchase of True Value Company.

“The only change has been that instead of an illiquid asset on our balance sheet, I have cash in the bank,” he told HBSDealer, in an e-mail interview.

Littmann, owner of K&B True Value, said the post-acquisition, day-to-day flow at K&B has been “business as usual.” And he expects more of the same. “My customers won’t see any difference,” he said. “There is nothing tangibly different that the employees would notice. We place our orders as we always have and continue to get on-time deliveries of our product.”

Another thing that remains similar is his participation on the co-op’s board. Here’s how that works: The ACON deal created two boards – a board of managers for the new True Value Co., and a board of directors for the co-operative’s 30% share in the new company. Littmann will serve as chairman of latter board.

Also with seats on the new co-op board are Brent Burger, VP of the co-op; Alan Bryant, treasurer; and Brian Webb, secretary. Separately, Burger will have a seat on the new company’s board, along with the new ownership and True Value Company CEO. Burger, a True Value dealer with several stores in Maine, was chairman of the True Value co-op before the acquisition.

What will keep the co-op board busy? Littmann lists the basic responsibilities:

  • Ensure that the co-op’s obligations under its charter and by-laws are met;
  • Exercise oversight over the actions taken on behalf of the co-op by the True Value Company
  • Exercise oversight over the finances and patronage dividend activity of the co-op
  • Advocate on behalf of the co-op when appropriate, and
  • Ensure that the co-op has the requisite directors and officers to carry on its business.
Jared Littmann

Jared Littmann

In addition, the board and officers will be available for any new issues that arise, for communication with the True Value Company, and to shareholders of the co-op, he said.

Littmann says the ACON transaction puts True Value on the right path for growth. It creates the only major hardware supplier with a nationally recognized name brand without an equity requirement. And it returned more than $220 million in cash to dealers.

Not everyone in True Value nation is satisfied with the ACON deal.  As Littmann sees it, that was to be expected. Stores in the True Value network range in format from rural to urban; they range in size from small to large; and they range in ownership from new investors to multiple- generations of a family. Even with this diversity, more than 80% of votes cast were in favor of the transaction, Littmann said.

He added: “Whether an individual shareholder supported the transaction or not, the board and officers of the True Value Cooperative will continue doing its best to advocate for the entire cooperative and represent its shareholders,” Littmann said.

Formerly an associate county attorney, Littmann came to True Value’s board in late 2013. His background includes service on the Annapolis City Council as an alderman, chair of the Environmental Matters Committee, and member of the Housing and Human Welfare Committee.

No longer in a government role, Littmann has more time on his hands to focus on business. “Fortunately, there is a terrific core of managers at the store who took on more responsibilities and authority when I was attending city business – and that has continued,” he said. “Because that didn’t change when my public service ended, I now have more time to work on big picture issues like the long-term growth of the business.”

As for K&B True Value, a 2015 HBSDealer Hardware All Star from the state of Maryland,  Littmann hasn’t made a final decision on how to use his share of the acquisition payout. He’s considering using the funds to pay down the loan of his original purchase of the business.

“I’m not expecting major changes for K&B True Value,” he said.

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