Fourteen hardware and home improvement retailers were honored as 2020 and 2021 Beacon Award winners during the Beacon Awards banquet held Friday, August 13 at the JW Marriott in Marco Island, Fla. The Beacon Awards are a premier national industry awards program developed by The Hardware Connection magazine and The Hardware Conference to recognize the “best of the best” independent hardware/home improvement retailers.
The 2020 and 2021 Beacon Awards were sponsored by Epicor and Ettore Products Company, with wholesaler sponsorship support from Do it Best and Orgill.
The Beacon Awards, now in their ninth year, honored the 2020 and 2021 Retail Beacon Award winners for each of the two participating wholesalers, plus eight winners of the Beacon Award for Community Service and two winners for Best New Store.
“These Beacon Award winners are an outstanding group of retailers. They all went above and beyond to find new ways to serve their communities during the pandemic,” stated Chris Jensen, editor/founder/principal of The Hardware Connection, the hardware industry’s leading digital publication.
What follows is an overview of the 2020 and 2021 Beacon Award honorees:
2020 BEACON AWARDS
Beacon Award for Community Service — Island Home Center & Lumber, Vashon, Wash.
Earl Van Buskirk, who has owned Island Home Center & Lumber for 33 years, made his employees the first priority when the pandemic hit. He figured out how to conduct a touchless sale and donated a large quantity of masks to first responders. Island Home Center donated tents and propane tank heaters so the island could administer drive-through testing.
Beacon Award for Community Service — Aubuchon Hardware, Westminster, Mass.
With 105 stores in New England and upstate New York, Century Club retailer Aubuchon Hardware had to provide PPE for 1,500 employees. Aubuchon donated over $100,000 to support five different COVID relief funds in the Northeast.
Beacon Award for Community Service — Wholesale Lumber Company, Clint, Texas
Joe and Jody Burks took early, decisive action to require employees and customers to wear masks and to keep their two stores safe and disinfected. They had volunteers make and give out handmade masks and did small business grants to help local businesses afford materials for plexiglass shields.
Beacon Award for Community Service — Akard True Value Hardware, Zionsville, Ind.
Leigh Ann Akard, third-generation owner of two stores in her hometown of Zionsville, lit up her store front with Christmas lights and tree last March and encouraged others in town to do the same. She started the “Be the Light” campaign to keep up the community’s spirits and to encourage support of local businesses.
Beacon Award for Community Service — Mazo Hardware, Mazomanie, Wis.
Renee Zaman was determined to provide her community the relief it needed while keeping spirits high during the pandemic. After an employee designed a prototype for a plexiglass shield, Renee sold them at cost to eight local polling locations so that voters could feel safe while they cast their votes. She also donated a large quantity of PPE and other items to the local hospital.
Beacon Award for Community Service — ToshCo, Gustavus, Alaska
Toshua and Cassie Parker made national news last year when it was revealed the lengths they went to keep their remote Alaskan town of 450 people supplied with food and other essential items when the supply ferry shut down. Toshua began using his own 96-foot supply boat and has been making the arduous 14-hour boat trip himself every week, since there are no roads in or out of the community. ToshCo is the only place to buy groceries, hardware or lumber in the area.
Beacon Award for Community Service — Jabo’s Ace Hardware, Keller, Texas
Bill and Renae Jablonowski recently opened their fourth Jabo’s Ace store in Texas. They changed how the business operated with curbside service, using Epicor’s technology to operate more efficiently and productively with customer counts up 15 percent and internet sales up 430 percent. They raised over $110,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals last year.
Beacon Award for Community Service — Miner’s Ace Hardware, Grover Beach, Calif.
The Miner and Filice families operate nine Miner’s Ace Hardware stores in California, keeping up a family tradition that dates back to 1956. Miner’s shifted its community service initiatives to help students forced into a period of distance learning, donating $30,000 to local schools to buy tablets and mobile hot spots for students in need.
Retail Beacon Award — McGuckin Hardware, Boulder, Colo.
McGuckin Hardware has focused on personalized service and selection since opening in 1955. The 58,000-square-foot store features 18 departments offering nearly 200,000 items. Barry and Vicki Hight and their son Jason carry on the tradition of “Green Vest” service started by Barry’s parents, Dave and Dee Hight, and have greatly stepped up their level of community donations during the pandemic.
Retail Beacon Award — T&M Hardware & Rental, Ellwood City, Pa.
Tim and Mary Post started out in 1991 by plowing their retirement savings into the purchase of a distressed store. They learned to rely on each other as the business grow and they now own a successful chain of six Do it Best stores in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Tim rallied the community to build a playground in Ellwood City in 1998, and during the pandemic the Posts stepped up to support local restaurants.
2021 BEACON AWARDS
Retail Beacon Award — Ambridge Do it Best Home Center, Ambridge, Pa.
Frank Strano pivoted from the family home remodeling business to start Ambridge Building Center in 1980, expanding into hardware in 1982. He moved the business to a new 40,000-square-foot building in 1995, starting a period of steady growth despite an influx of competition. Now with his son David active in the business, Frank has built a diversified and thriving business that is closely connected to the community it serves.
Retail Beacon Award — Bartlett’s Lumber & Hardware, Canadian, Texas
Bartlett’s has 10 locations serving the Texas panhandle since it was started by Bill Bartlett in 1937. His son, Terrill, now runs the business, which continues to set sales records each year. Sales were up 21 percent last year as Bartlett’s discovered new ways to use technology to better serve customers.
Best New Store, Under 20,000 sq. ft. — Wood Shed Lumber & Hardware Supply, Carrollton, Mo.
Sharona and Cecil Eiserer didn’t want to see their local lumberyard go out of business, so they bought it and transformed it with a bold remodeling and expansion plan. The new 11,000-square-foot store that opened in January 2018 meets all their customers’ needs. They later built a 7,000-square-foot showroom across the street to house rental and outdoor power equipment. Sales have risen from $900,000 to over $5 million in less than five years.
Best New Store, Over 20,000 sq. ft. — Bomgaars, Council Bluffs, Iowa
After Bomgaars moved in September 2019 from a 33,500-square-foot store in Council Bluffs to an 80,000-square-foot former Kmart, it didn’t take long to become an all-star performer with sales up 55 percent. The store’s larger size led to expanded core categories and the addition of niche categories in clothing, footwear, farm and ranch, pet, sporting goods and housewares, plus a DeWalt assortment that occupies five aisles.
Now in its 33rd year, The Hardware Conference is the industry’s largest gathering of independent hardware retailers regardless of wholesaler affiliation. Since last year’s Hardware Conference had to be canceled due to the pandemic, the 2020 Beacon Award winners were honored along with 2021 Beacon honorees at this year’s Conference, held August 13-15 in Marco Island. Profiles of the 2020 Beacon winners were featured in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of The Hardware Connection and 2021 Beacon Awards winners will be featured in the Sept/Oct 2021 issue. For more information on the Beacon Awards program, go to www.thehardwareconnection.com.