(L-R) The Youngs, shown in Ace Hardware in Mills River, own four area Aces. They are (L-R) Karl, Bill and Erik Young. Store manager Leslie Black is also beside a Big Green Egg giant grill. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The site is at 3340 Boyleston Hwy./N.C. 280, on the south side, and just west of N.C. 191. The store opened Oct. 7, has just concluded its first month of operation and has a grand opening sale Nov. 21-22.
Working with his family is “wonderful,” Bill Young said. The Illinois native worked for IBM for almost 30 years in Atlanta. His family has run Ace stores in the Asheville area since 2004, starting in Weaverville and next at North Asheville/Merrimon Avenue in 2009. Then came South Asheville, at Hendersonville Road/U.S. 25 and Mills Gap Road, in 2012.
The co-owners are Bill and eldest son Erik Young. They are based in the South Asheville store. They have been a managerial team since that first year here, in 2004, within months of Erik graduating from Georgia. He said the family opted for Ace Hardware Corp. as a very “recognized brand” with a strong reputation since starting nearly a century ago, in 1924. Ace is the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative.
Regional Manager Karl Young, youngest of Bill and Karin’s three sons, oversees their four stores. He spends a day or two at a time in each one. He is 24, and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill last year. Meanwhile, their brother Stefan Young is an architect in Brevard.
The Youngs lived in Raleigh then near Atlanta, before deciding to come here. “We looked to move to the mountains,” Karl said. “My fraternity brother in Raleigh had talked it up.”
The Mills River Ace store manager, Leslie Black, worked at the Merrimon store starting in 2009 and was its assistant manager. “Leslie has such a good retail background and hardware knowledge,” Karl said.
Local Ace stores’ customer service embodies the “helpful” slogan in television ad jingles since the Seventies. Then, the motto was “Ace is the place of the helpful hardware man.” After a hiatus, the “helpful” slogan returned last year. It is simplified to a rhyme of “Ace — the helpful place.”
“Our niche is customer service,” Karl said. “We have an assortment of hard-to-find items you don’t see in the ‘big boxes.’ They are definitely competitively-priced,” and with a range of price and style options per product.
Drill Doctor bit sharpeners are among unusual products they sell. So are Radio Flyer wagons and sleds, which are back and harken to Baby Boomers’ childhoods.
Also, “if we don’t have it in stock today, we can find it and usually get it to you in the next day or two,” Bill said. The regional warehouse in Gainesville, GA. has 65,000 items.
Bill added that “we collectively learned these niches,” among the four stores. Ace stores together have bulk-buying purchasing power. Yet most are independently-owned. This enables them to vary. Karl noted “each (Young-owned) store caters to a different customer base with product lines.”
For instance, for more rural Mills River, “we are toying with bringing in farm and agricultural equipment,” Karl said. Already there is a larger assortment of equipment for camping, fishing and hunting in the Mills River and Weaverville stores.
Since outdoors activities are popular here even in chillier times, the Youngs’ stores carry much outdoors equipment year-round instead of only in peak usage in warmer months, Erik noted.
River tubes were carried, at customers’ urging. This is an example of the impact of customer input. The new Mills River store is near many river recreational hot spots and is apt to also get tubes by spring.
Co-owner Erik Young walks by the Craftsman section in the Mills River Ace Hardware. Behind him at left are his brother Karl, and their father Bill Young. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Yeti brand coolers have “really taken off,” Karl said. “They’re top-of-the-line. We can’t keep them in stock.” Uses include for sports tailgating, fishing and hunting. As Bill notes, grills are big sellers such as by Weber and Big Green Egg’s giant ones. Stone fire pits are among niche items.
As weather cools, interest heats up for heaters, fireplace tools, log stands and wooden stove ducting, Leslie Black and Bill Young observed.
Outdoor power equipment, such as by Echo, is in big demand here, Bill said. Karl noted, “we carry the whole Craftsman line.”
Ace stores are known for their great promotions in a variety of departments. The Mills River Ace’s grand opening sale is coming up soon, on Nov. 21-22.
For more information, call 891-4545 or check http://www.Acehardware.com/mystore/index.jsp?store=16106&cid=localstore16106.
(Editor’s Note: this digital version was edited after the paper edition went to press.)