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Ace Hardware Turns 100

Welcome to the Century Club, Ace Hardware. This timeline shows the journey from humble beginnings to becoming the world’s largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative with more than 5,800 stores in every U.S. state and 60 countries.

Company History Timeline

1924 — Five Chicago hardware retailers—Richard Hesse, William Stauber, Gern Lindquist, Frank Burke and Oscar Fisher—form a venture called Ace Stores to pool their buying power. It is named after the heroic ace fighter pilots of World War I.

1929 — Ace Stores opens its first distribution center.

1931 — Company changes name to Ace Hardware Corporation.

1934 — Sales total $650,000 from 41 retailers.

1959 — Wholesale sales total $24.5 million from 325 retail stores.

1960s — Expands into the South and West regions and opens distribution centers in Georgia and California.

1973 — President and Founder Richard Hesse retires and Ace is sold to its retailers to operate as a dealer-owned cooperative, with headquarters located in Oak Brook, Ill.

1975 — First international store opens in Guam.

1976 — Shareholders elect first board of directors comprised solely of retailers. Wholesale sales are $382 million.

1979 — Ace has members in all 50 states.

1985 — Company surpasses $1 billion in wholesale sales.

1986 — Roger Peterson named president. Under his tenure, Ace more than doubles sales.

1987 — John Madden becomes a spokesperson for Ace, a relationship that continues to 2009.

1990 — Ace International division created.

1991 — Al-Futtaim Group obtains licensing rights for Ace in the Middle East.

1991 — Ace begins partnering to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

1993 — Ace surpasses $2 billion in sales.

1994 — Ace unveils “The New Age of Ace” strategic plan to boost retail performance, open more stores and grow internationally.

1996 — Dave Hodnik is named president.

1998 — Ace surpasses $3 billion in sales.

2002 — Lou Manfredini becomes Ace Hardware’s resident “Home Expert” and editorial media spokesperson.

2005 — Ray Griffith named president.

2010 — Tim-Br Mart Group acquires licensing rights to the Ace brand name in Canada.

2011 — Ace Hardware International subsidiary and franchise model launched.

2012 — Ace acquires its largest member, Westlake Ace Hardware, for $88 million.

2013 — John Venhuizen named president and CEO.

2013 — Ace launches 20/20 Vision with a focus on customer service and faster adoption of Discovery planograms.

2013 — Ace surpasses $4 billion in sales and records first year with more than $100 million in net income.

2014 — Rona agrees to a master license to control the Ace brand in Canada.

2014 — Ace acquires Emery-Waterhouse, a Maine-based independent wholesaler.

2015 — Ace acquires Jensen Distribution Services, a Washington-based independent wholesaler.

2015 — Ace forms Emery Jensen Distribution as a national alternative to co-op membership. Ace Wholesale Holdings operates as a subsidiary of Ace to supply non-Ace independent retailers.

2015 — Surpasses $5 billion in wholesale sales.

2017 — After acquiring Rona, Lowe’s begins to service Ace Canada retailers.

2017 — Ace acquires The Grommet, a website that markets unique products; Ace Ecommerce Holdings is formed.

2018 — Company opens 1.1 million square-foot Retail Support Center (RSC) in Fredericksburg, Pa.

2018 — Ace launches Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines® Paint, marking the brand’s first-ever exclusive paint partnership with a hardware cooperative.

2019 — Ace increases stake to become controlling shareholder of ACO Inc., which operates under Great Lakes Ace store brand.

2020 — Peavey Mart acquires the master license to service the 107 Ace stores in Canada.

2020 — Ace surpassed $7 billion in revenue.

2021 — Company opens new 715,000-square-foot RSC in Plant City, Fla.

2021 — Ace expands into Mexico with a turnkey franchise model.

2022 — Ace surpasses $9 billion in revenue with $340.6 million in net income.

2023 — Opens new 1.1 million square-foot RSC in Visalia, Calif.

2023 — Begins construction on new 1.5 million square-foot RSC in Kansas City, Mo.

2023 — Ace earns J.D. Power’s highest ranking for customer satisfaction among home improvement retail stores for 16th time in past 17 years.

2023 — Ace moves into new 250,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

2024 — Company marks 100th anniversary.

4 Century Club Ace Retailers

Because Ace locations are individually owned and operated, their varied origins and stories have been woven together over the decades to become the tapestry of what the cooperative is today. Some stores pre-date the cooperative’s founding and became Ace retailers in later years. Others opened under the Ace banner, drawn by the ubiquitous advertising featuring John Madden. This year, Ace Hardware joins more than 100 of its retailers who are already in the Century Club. Here are a few of their stories of resilience and perseverance during more than a century of hardware retailing:

Early Adopter: Ziegler’s Ace, Elgin, Ill.

Started as Meehan’s Hardware in 1856, the business was purchased by Lyle Ziegler in 1930, joining the 10-year-old Ace Hardware in 1934. As one of the longest continuously operating businesses in Illinois, Ziegler’s Ace has found success through its affiliation with Ace.

Lyle’s sons Gregg and James led the company into the 1970s. At one point during the 1960s, Ziegler’s Ace was the leading purchaser of products from Ace. Into the 1980s, the third generation of Brian and David took over operations, with David also serving as chairman of the board for Ace Hardware Corp. In 2013, David’s son, Adam, became the fourth generation to join the family business.

The business now boasts nine stores in the Fox River Valley in northern Illinois and continues to look for opportunities to expand.

Continue Reading in the March Issue of Hardware Connection

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