Continuing the alphabetical, coast-to-coast rundown of all-star hardware stores, here are three standouts from Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota.
W.E. Aubuchon Hardware
The biggest of the hardware independents, Westminster, Mass.-based Aubuchon runs more than 130 locations across six northeastern states, starting with Maine and ending in upstate New York. Family owned since 1908, Aubuchon Hardware was way ahead of the curve on the Internet, e-commerce and search engine optimization; the company owns the much-envied hardwarestore.com Web address. Two grandsons of the founder now lead the W.E. Aubuchon Co. Some 16 other family members, some of them fourth generation, work in management positions. The company has closed some units during the recession but opened others, the most recent being on April 2 in Cohasset, Mass., in a former Chevrolet dealership.
With 26 stores (25 in Michigan and one in Georgia), GillRoy’s is one of Do it Best Corp.’s largest dealers. President Bob Morgan’s father started with one store in downtown Flint in 1945. Much of Michigan, and especially Flint, has been devastated by the evaporation of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. auto industry. But Flushing, Mich.-based GillRoy’s has not closed a single store or conducted any major layoffs. “We’ve been able to retain all of our management,” Morgan said. “We’ve cut expenses and work twice as hard for less money.”
Arrow Ace Hardware
The recent tornados that tore through the Southern states stirred up painful memories for longtime employees at Arrow Ace Hardware in St. Peter, Minn. On March 31, 1998, a twister came through their town, destroying 90% of the homes and damaging 125 businesses. Once the winds died down, Ace dealer Dave Neiman started handing out chainsaws, flashlights (nearly 300 of them) and plastic sheeting through the store’s shattered front windows. He told people they could come back later and pay him. A member of the Ace buying group since 1956, Arrow Ace Hardware has grown to include 1