By Clint Parker
Weaverville – It was August of 2004 when Ace Hardware opened up in town. There was no Lowes and the only other hardware store in town was Builder’s Express. Now, 15 years later, Builder’s Express is gone, Lowes in their big box has been operating for several years and Ace is still going strong, but now at a new location.
“It’s changed a lot over the years,” said Bill Young, president of the family business as he and his sons, Erik and younger brother Karl, who is general manager, sat in the office at their new location beside the Ingles Grocery Store on Weaver Blvd. The new facility is just across the street from their old place in the Weaverville Crossings Plaza. Their old space there was recently filled by ReStore.
“We had a grand opening scheduled in early September (2003), and Hurricanes Ivan and Frances came through,” recalled Bill about that first year in business. “One week before it [the grand opening] was scheduled and one week after it was scheduled.” Those storms pushed that grand opening back a couple of weeks, but it didn’t stop the area from being a good location for what would become the Youngs’ first of five stores in the greater region.
“We didn’t even know what we were doing back then,” joked Erik, vice president of the company, which got a laugh from his dad and brother. You can’t say the same now that the family is operating multiple locations and enjoying 15 years in what was a switch from Bill’s former life with IBM.
Asked what got him interested in the famous franchise hardware chain model, Bill explained, “I had a fraternity brother that was an Ace Hardware dealer in Raleigh and I retired and started looking for a family business to start up.” Erik had just graduated from college in Georgia, so the time was right. His fraternity brother said, “You ought to look at Ace and we did and liked it and decided to do it.” Bill and his family were in the Atlanta area at the time but had already bought property here in anticipation of the move for retirement.
As for the new location, “We’re still trying to get settled in a little bit,” said Erik. “Getting things tweaked and looking good and get the garden shop set up right.” The new facility is almost the exact square footage as their old place, explained Erik, but “it feels bigger” because of the high ceilings. The garden center is much bigger than at their old location.
With their lease up at the old building and Ingles having closed its garden center area a few years ago, “We thought it time we build for the future,” said Bill. Better parking was also attractive as well as the well-frequented grocery store. They also have another store in an Ingles plaza at their Mills River location. “It’s a good synergy,” Erik said of the combination of grocery and hardware stores in the same plaza.
Asked about competition in the hardware business, Bill said, “We do have a lot of competition, but I think we’ve found out how to carve out our niche and we’ve made a lot of Weaverville customers happy.” One of those niches is the fact that they are now delivering to customers within 15 miles of the store. The other niche pointed out by Bill is the excellent service provided by long-term employees like Store Manager Krystal Bechtol, who has been with the Youngs since they opened in 2003, mixing paint the right way and offering accessories that might be needed to do the job.
“We feel like we’re in this for the really long haul,” said Bill, “and we should be here for a long time.”