A Few Cool Hardware Stores names new leader

Craig Smith takes over as CEO and his store Fairfax Ace Hardware joins AFCHS.
AFCHS names Craig Smith CEO
AFCHS founder and outgoing CEO Gina Schaefer and incoming CEO Craig Smith announce Fairfax Ace Hardware as part of the local, independent chain.

A Few Cool Hardware Stores, known as AFCHS, welcomes new CEO, Craig Smith, the founder and owner of Fairfax Ace Hardware in Virginia.

“Great companies attract great people,” said Gina Schaefer, founder and current CEO. “I am pleased to welcome Craig as our new CEO and to add his entire team to the AFCHS family.”

Schaefer will stay on as co-CEO throughout the onboarding process, said the firm.

Smith brings with him 23 years of experience in the hardware business – and his store – which grows the employee-owned hardware store chain to 13 locations in DC, Baltimore, Montgomery County and Northern Virginia, said the company.

“We give legendary customer service, have an engaged team, and are part of the fabric of the Fairfax community the way each of AFCHS’ other 12 locations are a key part of their individual communities,” said Smith.

With 32 employees, Fairfax Ace Hardware spans about 12,000 square feet on its first floor and features a 4,000-square-foot mezzanine.

The store is a more suburban location than the other AFCHS stores, said the hardware chain, and services mostly single-family homeowners with big lawns and a love of grilling, so it is a major outdoor power tool – Stihl especially – and grilling destination.

The selection of a new CEO is part of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) process that Schaefer and her husband, CFO Marc Friedman, began in August 2021.

In joining AFCHS, Fairfax Ace and its employees transition into the ESOP, which has already transferred 30% of company ownership to employees through a trust that allocates shares to eligible employees over time, said the company.

“I’m thrilled about joining AFCHS and continuing Gina’s legacy. The things she and her talented team have embedded in the company culture – giving people second chances, engaging the community, and operating with thoughtful core values – have laid a rock-solid foundation and paved the way for a bright future,” said Smith.

While AFCHS is a member of the Ace retailer-owned hardware cooperative, said the firm, its stores operate independently as an integral part of the communities they serve.

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