HARDWARE STORES

Meet the 2018 Ace Hardware All Star

Intown Ace Hardware gets an assist from a Children’s Miracle Network patient

BY Ken Clark

There’s something about Intown Ace Hardware that makes visitors feel happy. Employees look happy, too. Even visiting retailers on educational missions from out of town notice the positive vibe.

“There is just some kind of energy in here,’ said Dave Jones, owner. “I don’t know exactly what it is, but if I could bottle it, I think I’d be on the Forbes list. We have an eclectic product mix and a layout that makes our store a fun place for people to shop.”

Ace Hardware Corp. has also noticed something special about Intown Ace Hardware. Intwon was a 2012 “Coolest Hardware” honoree. And at the co-op’s fall market, Ace bestowed upon Jones the title of “2018 Ace All-Star Retailer.” The award is given each year to an owner or owners of one retailer for its extraordinary fundraising, leadership skills, innovation and commitment to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Ace’s vendor partner Duracell is donating $25,000 in Intown Ace’s name to the store’s hometown hospital, Health Care of Atlanta. “That’s the real benefit of the award,” said Jones. “A check in our name to the hospital.”

Intown Ace’s path to extraordinary fundraising was fueled by a diminutive ambassador of the Children’s Miracle Network, nine-year-old Parker Grelecki, the Ace Hardware Foundation’s fundraising “All Star” poster child of 2015.

Parker Grelecki, in 2015.

Parker, lives in the area. And his appearances in the store put a friendly face on Ace’s fundraising efforts. “He’s a live wire,” Jones said. “He would go behind the counter, get on the radio, and he just charmed the heck out of everybody. Seeing him and understanding his story made it very easy for all the cashiers and the whole team to get behind it.”

Parker’s story is one of overcoming adversity. He was born with excessive fluid in his brain, a condition that has required therapy from a very young age and multiple operations.

About four years ago, the store stepped on the fundraising accelerator. Since then, annual fundraising grew from $495 to more than $31,000. It started with a simple dollar raffle for grills, and progressed to “round up” donations — customers agreeing to let the store keep the change for a good cause. Also at Intown and many other Ace stores around the country, blue buckets are a symbol of charity. For a $5 contribution to CMN, customers get a bucket, plus 20% off any merchandise that they can squeeze into it. Intown sold about 330 CMN buckets last year.

Intown’s annual fundraising goal is to achieve a spot in the top 10 of Ace single-store retailers. For these 10 stores – and also the top 5 multi-store Ace retailers – Duracell contributes a $10,000 donation to each store’s local CMN hospital. In the latest tally, Intown was comfortable in the fourth position. (Sitting at the top was Cypress Ace Hardware of Houston, the 2017 Ace All-Star honoree.)

Receiving the All-Star award, which considers fund-raising as one of several factors, was a complete surprise to Jones. “Parker’s dad sprung it on me,” he said.

Intown Ace Hardware’s approach serves as an example of the kind of community involvement that Ace CEO John Venhuizen encouraged during the co-op’s recent convention in Chicago. “We have to remember it’s way bigger than just money,” he said. “We’ve got to make distinctive impacts in the communities we serve.”

Jones says collecting for charity through a “Round-Up” program at the point of sale is a concept that plays well everywhere. “At dealer events, we talk about what we’re doing and how easy it is. It’s painless. The money rolls in and it’s a feel good thing for everybody.”

One particular advantage that Intown enjoys is proximity to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which has built a reputation as a facility that cares about helping kids, regardless of their ability to pay, he said. Only about 2.5 miles separates the hospital from the hardware store. “So many people in the community have been touched by that hospital and have received over-the-top care,” Jones said. “Our fund-raising gives many of them an easy way to give back. “

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