Some history about well-known hardware stores

CJ Coombs

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Home Depot store in Pasadena, CA.Photo by Oxana Melis on Unsplash.

According to eMarketer, home improvement stores excelled in growth during the first two quarters of 2021, mostly due to the effects of the pandemic with customers engaging in DIY projects. As customers were not as affected in the last half of 2021, the growth behavior was more normal-paced as DIY projects were lessening.

Three hardware stores most people are familiar with are Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, The Home Depot, and Ace Hardware stores. Let’s look at some history of these popular stores for your DIY projects or hardware needs.

History of Lowe’s Home Improvement Center

In 1921, under the direction of L.S. Lowe, the hardware store known as Lowe’s North Wilkesboro Hardware opened in North Carolina in the small town of Wilkesboro, NC. It was a general store selling items including groceries along with hardware. In 1940, Lowe’s son, Jim Lowe, took over the operation after his dad passed away. With having served in World War II, part ownership was offered to his brother-in-law, Carl Buchan.

After the war, Buchan steers the focus of Lowe’s on home improvement products. By 1949, Lowe’s opens another store in Sparta, North Carolina. In 1952, Buchan is the sole owner of the company keeping the Lowe’s name. With its continued growth, Lowe’s becomes publicly traded on October 10, 1961, with 400,000 shares being sold at $12.25 a share.

One million customers are served by 1964. On December 19, 1979, Lowe’s is put on the list on the New York Stock Exchange and by January 26, 1981, Lowe’s makes it to the list on the London Stock Exchange. In 1982, Lowe’s makes its billion dollars.

Fortune Magazine named Lowe’s as one of the “Top 100 Best Companies to Work for in America” in 1984. With the digital age growing, the website Lowes.com hits the internet.

Lowe’s first store to open outside of the United States was in Canada in 2007. Eight years later, Lowe’s opens in India. In 2016, Lowe’s acquired a home improvement company known as RONA in Canada.

The President and CEO of Lowe’s as of 2018 is Marvin Ellison.

Some history of The Home Depot

Home Depot, Inc. was incorporated on June 29, 1978. The first two Home Depot stores opened in Atlanta Georgia in 1979. Before closing out 1979, there was a third store. In 1981, two stores opened in Florida and the store became publicly traded at $12 per share.

The 100th store opened in Monrovia, California in 1989, and in the following year, home Depot was “the largest home improvement retailer in the US.”

In 1995, Home Depot’s first Tool Rental Center opened in Nashville, Tennessee and two years later, the store created Kids Workshops to teach building skills as well as safety.

In 2001, expansion reached Mexico after acquiring Total Home. In the following year, Home Depot became the first home retailer to have self-checkout installed.

In 2005, Home Depot had 2,000 stores with the opening of a store in Riverdale, Georgia.

To support the Gulf community's rebuilding after the effects of Hurricane Katrina, Home Depot donated over $87 million.

In 2007, Home Depot had opened the first RDC (Rapid Deployment Center), which was the “beginning of one of the most dramatic supply chain transformations in retail history.” Instead of the supplier shipping directly to the store, it could ship products to the RDC which would then ship to stores.

With the acquisition of Compact Power Equipment, Inc. and The Company Store in 2017, its sales reached beyond $100 billion for the fiscal year of 2017.

The Chairman and CEO is Craig Menear.

History pieces of Ace Hardware

Ace Hardware is proud to be your hometown local hardware store with more than 5,000 stores all around the world. Most of the stores are independently owned.

These hard working men and women are part of the fabric of your community. They are small business owners who are local and loyal...just like it ought to be. While others have become large and impersonal, at Ace, we've remained small and very personal. That's why we say a visit to Ace, is like a visit to your neighbor.

Ace Hardware is proud to be your hometown local hardware store with more than 5,000 stores all around the world. Most of the stores are independently owned.

Ace Hardware stores stand true to their trademarked slogan of Helpful Hardware Folks supplying the local community with a variety of hardware and gardening supplies.

Ace Hardware was founded by a group of Chicago hardware store owners in 1924 and incorporated in 1928. The Ace Hardware Corporation continues to be solely and exclusively owned by your local Ace retail entrepreneurs.

In 1933, Hardware Ace had built a network of 38 retailers.

The company had wholesale sales of $24.5 million from 325 stores in 1959 which was also the year of the company’s 35th anniversary.

Ace Hardware began to expand its stores on the west coast and in the south in 1963. In 1969 outside of Chicago, its first distribution center was opened.

Ace Hardware was ultimately sold to its member dealers which created a dealer-owned hardware cooperative all due to the last surviving Ace Hardware founder, Richard Hesse, selling off the company in 1973 when he retired. In 1976, the ownership was transferred and the sales volume had reached $382 million.

In 1978, more members from the east were signed into the cooperative.

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 prompted Ace to plan a paint plant in Texas, in order to meet anticipated demand from the 70 Mexican Ace stores that were open by that time, and the 26 more that were expected to open soon. (Source.)

As part of its plan to improve retail performance, Ace Hardware announced its own stores would be opened in the Chicago area testing retail concepts, fulfilling its objective by 1995. In this year, it also established the subsidiary National Hardlines Supply.

In 1997, paint and paint associated supplies made up 21 percent of Ace's revenue, and 15 percent was due to the sales of plumbing and heating supplies.

In 1998, Ace Hardware had announced the formation of an alliance with EC Company, "a leader in the development and sale of electronic commerce software and services, which will allow Ace to offer electronic data interchange (EDI) capabilities to its small- and medium-sized suppliers." By the spring of 2000, in-store kiosks were in place in over 1,000 stores providing customers access to the web site.

The company planned to quadruple its international sales to $400 million by 2000, with a special focus on South America. (Source.)

In 2012, Ace Hardware acquired Westlake Ace Hardware for $88 million.

As of 2016, J. D. Power ranked Ace Hardware "Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Home Improvement Retail Stores" for 10 continuous years.

John Venhuizen is the President and CEO of Ace Hardware Corporation.

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30 years of legal secretarial experience, and a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, my life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO
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