In a big box world, there’s still room for the little guys.
That was the thinking of Bob and Kristin Nell, the couple that bought Mequon Ace Hardware in 2011, taking the business over from the original owners who founded the store in 1981.
It made perfect sense for Kristin, who started out as a cashier at the hardware store – 11001 N. Port Washington Rd. – at age 16. Her husband, Bob, warmed up to the idea over drinks at a bar in Richfield.
A handful of years into it, Bob, 46, peers out on his store from the conference room on the second floor. He’s modest about how complicated it was to make the transition into the hardware space as someone with food service management experience but none in this industry.
“We bought an existing business,” he says. “It was easier than building up a business from scratch. It was making some changes and fine-tuning.”
Kristin, 37, on the other hand, already knew the store inside and out – and had no qualms going into business with her spouse, and diving in head first.
But their friends asked the Jackson couple the obvious question – in a market with plenty of big box stores, how does owning a neighborhood Ace Hardware store in this era make sense?