High performance in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington
State by state, meet the 2018 class of Stihl Hardware All Stars
It takes a little more to be a Stihl Hardware All Star.
Each year, HBSDealer solicits nominations from readers and the industry for Hardware All Stars.
And each year, we’re rewarded with a fresh class of high-performing, community-minded, service-oriented businesses worthy of the honor.
During the course of our research, we’ve met dealers who take risks, inspire staff and lift communities — or have what we call the All Star spirit.
Congratulations to all of the 2018 Stihl Hardware All Star honorees. Here’s three stars worth gazing at:
Sunshine True Value
This rural outpost in Hawaii, on the Big Island, has turned into a destination store for locals. “We’re almost like a general store, a catch-all for people — we are the closest thing to civilization for about one hour,” owner Jake Chilton said. In 2014, he surveyed customers on what they would like Sunshine to carry; Chilton responded by doubling the store’s footprint as part of a True Value Destination remodel, and added outdoor power equipment, lawn and garden and nursery. “It has been a really good transition for our business.”
Here’s comeback story worthy of All-Star status. After opening in 2006, this small-town store 10 miles north of Anchorage was rocked by the combination of the financial downturn and a 2.5-year road project that choked customer access. Bankruptcy followed, but not defeat. After a seven-year break, co-owner Justin Phillips and his business partner have resurrected the store. “Now we’re making something happen here, and community support is huge,” he said. “It just goes to show: don’t give up.”
Jack’s Country Store of Ocean Park
Founded in 1885, this All Star is recognized as the oldest continuous retail operator in the state. Jack’s has paved a unique path to All Star status, combining a vintage hardware store appeal with a full grocery and a retail mix that serves its fishing and clamming community. The store invites customers to engage staff and challenge them with unusual product requests. “Friendly waters are frequently accepted and seldom lost,” the company says on its home page.
The future is now for independents
Las Vegas — What would you do if you had a chance to upgrade your retail strategy with $100,000?
A panel of finalists for the Reimagine Retail program delivered their ideas during a discussion at the National Hardware Show.
Designed to help independent retailers succeed, last year’s prize winner Robert Lau shared how he used the prize to create a café focused on grilling and barbecue elements. Located in Soda Springs, Idaho, Caribou Jack’s Trading Co. just completed an overhaul and complete store reset to make room for the café.
Caribou Jack’s sells hardware, tools and sporting goods, along with farm and ranch supplies. Now the store has the sensory element of smell to go along with the visual brick-and-mortar experience.
“If you feed them, they will come,” said Lau, owner of Caribou Jack’s, which competes against several other independent hardware stores in his town.
This year, the contest focused on technology; and winner Matt Woods plans to implement same-day delivery to customers within a three-mile radius of each of the five Woods Hardware stores in the Cincinnati market.
At Woods Hardware’s downtown Cincinnati location, the company rents just seven parking spaces at a cost of $1,400 per month. It’s not an ideal situation for shoppers or the store. Getting in and out can be difficult.
“Our vision is to virtualize our store,” said Woods, president and CEO of Woods Hardware. “You can click a product, interconnect with us through e-commerce and get your product delivered in the same day.”
After learning his proposal had won the contest, Woods said his company is “ready to rock and roll.”
“Now we just have to hire the team to upgrade our systems.” Woods said. “With this prize, we can start taking steps to put our plan into action.”
Other finalists included The Color House in Wakefield, R.I. The paint and design retailer wants to create a rewards program using social media platforms. In addition to earning rewards for purchases, customers would also earn rewards for referrals, reviews and social media sharing. They would be able to see how close they are to their next reward, and those who engage the most would earn exclusive perks.
The Color House recently opened the e-commerce portion of its business.
“It allows my store to be open 24/7,” said owner Jean Hauser, who brought her background in fashion merchandising and interior design to The Color House more than two decades ago.
Just Grillin, located in Tampa, Fla., zeros in on outdoor living space design services along with grill sales. The company’s long-term plan includes a connected space to allow customers to actually see what their new living space could look like.
Through tablets, mounted TVs and voice-activated smart home assistants, the company will be able to take customers on a virtual tour of their proposed outdoor living renovations. In addition, Just Grillin plans to enhance its marketing approach and website to attract new customers to the in-store connected showroom, according to marketing manager Samuel Curtis.
“Technology does not play a huge roll for us right now but it needs to — that’s where everything is heading,” Curtis said. “We want to automate processes and make our location a destination store.”
Weeks Home Hardware operates four locations in southern Ontario, Canada. Owner Ron Cicuttini wants to use technology to track customers, install self-serve kiosks and build an e-commerce platform. Using an array of digital tools, the business seeks to understand how customers move and interact within the store.
The company also plans to use kiosks at the entrance of its buildings to give customers digital access to flyers and coupons.
“We really do believe if you are going to be successful in the future, you have to have brick-and-mortar and e-commerce,” Cicuttini said.
Westlake expands in Carolina
Store-within-a-store pet supply will be part of the new Cary, N.C., location.
Westlake Ace Hardware signed a lease to open a new store in North Carolina. The 20,000 sq.-ft. Cary location in the Hemlock Plaza shopping center is expected to open in the fall of 2018
The new store will boost the Ace retail division’s store count in North Carolina to 10. Westlake Ace currently operates 121 stores in 10 states.
“Becoming part of the Cary community and developing a new Ace Hardware location here from the ground up is particularly exciting for us,” said Joe Jeffries, CEO of Westlake Ace Hardware. “The new store will allow us to deepen our relationship with customers in North Carolina and show them how we live the Ace Helpful Promise every day by delivering reliable service, advice and products to help customers get their projects done right.”
The new store will be branded as Ace Hardware and will have a 13,300 square foot sales floor. It will sell such traditional hardware products as fasteners, tools, plumbing and electric supplies and paint — as well as Stihl outdoor power equipment, lawn and garden supplies, and BBQ products from Traeger and Weber, among others.
The store will also include a unique “store-within-a-store” pet supply department. It will sell an extensive array of pet food, toys, grooming products, health supplies, pre-packed and bulk treats, and other accessories for dogs, cats and other pets. Featured brands will include Blue Buffalo, Science Diet, Nutro, Taste of The Wild, Merrick, and Kong.
Kansas City, Mo.-based Westlake Ace Hardware has been part of the Ace Hardware co-op since 1959 and is its largest member. It was purchased by Ace in 2012, and acts as a wholly owned Ace subsidiary.