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In Chicago, upbeat and defiantly convenient

Ace CEO Ray Griffith pointed to strong numbers, including a refinancing deal.

Rallying the troops during the Ace Fall Convention and Exhibits, chairman Dave Ziegler showed the early morning general session audience a video clip of Ace COO John Venhuizen wielding a Home Channel News magazine.

In the magazine was a quote from a Home Depot executive about leading the industry in convenience and service. Venhuizen responded by channeling defiant former NRA spokesman Charlton Heston: Ace will relinquish the title of most convenient “when they can peel it out of our cold dead hands.”

There was more than heavy rhetoric at the Chicago general session.

CEO Ray Griffith shared numbers showing year-to-date Ace sales are up 4.5%, ahead of the budgeted 4.0%. The company opened 78 new stores so far, with a goal of 179 in North America.

The CEO laid out the rationale behind a refinancing deal that led to a one-time expense in the co-op’s recent quarter, but “will save $15 million a year for four years beginning in 2013.”

Griffith said the co-op’s same-store sales are up 3.8% year to date, and transactions are up 1.5% year to date. “I think it reflects the strength of the home improvement market,” he said.