The Evolution of Ace Hardware: A Historical Perspective (2024)

The Evolution of Ace Hardware: A Historical Perspective (1)

A Look At Ace Hardware
Key Points and Facts
Lessons To Consider
Questions and Answers
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A Look Into Ace Hardware

The Story of Ace Hardware Corporation: From Humble Beginnings to Global Success

The Start of Something Big (1920s – 1930s)

Imagine Chicago in the roaring 1920s, when five friends—Richard Hesse, Frank Burke, Oscar Fisher, E. Gunnard Linquist, and William Stauber—decided to change the hardware store game.

They started by forming a partnership among their local hardware stores for purchasing and advertising, making a significant leap in 1927 by adopting the name Ace.

By 1928, Ace was an incorporated entity. The company shifted gears, becoming a wholesaler organization, and started stocking goods in its Chicago warehouse.

Under the leadership of Frank Burke and later Richard Hesse, Ace was on its way to making history.

Rapid Growth and DIY Revolution (1940s – 1970s)

Fast forward to the 1940s, and Ace was growing like a tree in spring! They focused on keeping costs low and making sure products got out quickly.

This was also when the ‘do-it-yourself’ (DIY) trend started to boom, thanks to the postwar era. Ace jumped on this opportunity, and by the late 1970s, they were a major player in the hardware scene.

A big moment came in 1969 when they opened their first distribution center outside Chicago.

The era ended with a significant change: Richard Hesse retired in 1973, and Ace was sold to its member dealers, transforming into a cooperative owned by the dealers.

Adapting to Changing Times (1970s – 1980s)

The late 1970s and 1980s were a time of evolution for Ace. Under Arthur Krausman’s leadership, they expanded services for members, like training and store layout.

The DIY market was exploding, reaching $100 billion by the end of the 1980s. Ace ensured it was part of this growth, launching national ad campaigns with the unforgettable slogan, “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.”

Facing New Challenges (1990s)

The 90s brought new challenges. Big competitors like Home Depot started to shake things up.

Ace had to think smart—they introduced their private label products, starting with paint, and launched strategic plans like ‘The New Age of Ace’ and ‘Ace 2000’. Their focus? Efficient operations, growing internationally, and opening new stores.

Technological Leap and New Horizons

Entering the digital age, Ace launched for online sales, a big step in the internet era.

They also started to rethink their image, aiming to centrally manage stores and present a more unified retail chain image.

Key Chronology Dates

Important milestones include:

  • Their incorporation in 1928.
  • Starting regional distribution in 1969.
  • Becoming a dealer-owned cooperative in 1976.
  • Beginning paint manufacturing in 1984.
  • Launching strategic plans in the 1990s.

From 1924 to the 21st Century: Ace’s Journey

Founded in 1924, Ace Hardware began as a dream of five friends in Chicago.

They’ve grown from a small group of hardware stores to a global presence, with over 5,700 locations as of 2022 and a revenue of $9.17 billion!

Leaders like John Venhuizen have guided Ace to new heights, showing that great things can grow from tiny seeds.

Ace Hardware’s story involves innovation, adaptation, and a relentless drive to provide helpful service.

From its early days as a simple partnership to its current status as a global cooperative, Ace has shown that any challenge can be turned into an opportunity with the right vision and teamwork.

Ace truly is the place where history and hardware come together!


Key Points and Facts of Ace Hardware Corporation’s History

Foundation and Initial Growth

  • Founders: Founded in the early 1920s by Richard Hesse, Frank Burke, Oscar Fisher, E. Gunnard Linquist, and William Stauber.
  • Ace Name Adoption: The Ace name was adopted in 1927, and the company was incorporated as “Ace Stores” in 1928.
  • Wholesaling Transition: Shifted to a wholesaling model, purchasing directly from manufacturers and storing goods in a Chicago warehouse.
  • Early Leadership: Led by Frank Burke and later by Richard Hesse, starting in 1930.

Growth and Expansion Era

  • Low-Cost Strategy: Focused on low-cost purchasing and distribution methods.
  • Post-War DIY Boom: Benefited from the post-WWII ‘do-it-yourself’ (DIY) trend.
  • Expansion: Grew from 133 stores in the 1940s to 325 stores by 1959, with sales jumping from $7 million to $24.5 million.
  • First Distribution Centers Beyond Chicago: Opened in 1969.
  • Cooperative Transition: Became a dealer-owned hardware cooperative in 1973 following Richard Hesse’s retirement.

Business Evolution and Market Trends

  • New Leadership: Arthur Krausman became president in 1974.
  • DIY Market Growth: DIY market grew to $100 billion by the end of the 1980s.
  • Iconic Advertising: Launched national advertising campaigns with the slogan “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.”

Strategic Changes in the 1990s

  • Private Label Introduction: Started private label products like Ace Paint.
  • Facing Competition: Responded to competitors like Home Depot.
  • Strategic Plans: Implemented ‘The New Age of Ace’ and ‘Ace 2000’ for improved performance and international growth.
  • Technological Innovations: Launched for online sales.

Recent Developments and International Expansion

  • Leadership and Sales Growth: Under CEO Roger Peterson (1986–1995), sales more than doubled.
  • International Growth: Ace International was formed in 1990, expanding into various regions.
  • Advertising Evolution: Modified their jingle for inclusivity in 1989.
  • Corporate Expansion: Acquired Westlake Ace Hardware in 2012 and expanded the distribution network.

Key Dates and Figures

  • Significant Milestones: Became a cooperative in 1976, started paint manufacturing in 1984, and launched strategic plans in the 1990s.
  • Recent Stats: Over 5,700 locations as of 2022, with a revenue of $9.17 billion.
  • Current Leadership: John Venhuizen (President and CEO); Brett Stephenson (Chairman of the Board).

These points encapsulate Ace Hardware Corporation’s journey from a small Chicago-based partnership to a globally recognized hardware retail giant, showcasing its adaptability, strategic foresight, and commitment to evolving with market trends.


The Evolution of Ace Hardware: A Historical Perspective (2)
Ace Hardware

1920s: The Foundation Years

  • Early 1920s: Richard Hesse, Frank Burke, Oscar Fisher, E. Gunnard Linquist, and William Stauber founded Ace Hardware in Chicago, Illinois.
  • 1927: The Ace name was adopted.
  • 1928: Incorporation as “Ace Stores.”

1930s: Building the Business

  • 1930: Leadership under Frank Burke, followed by Richard Hesse.
  • 1931: Name changed to Ace Hardware Corporation.

1940s – 1950s: Post-War Expansion

  • 1940s – 1959: Dramatic growth with wholesale sales increasing from over $7 million to $24.5 million.
  • Mid-1930s: Ace had 41 dealer/members with sales over $650,000.
  • 1959: Expansion from 133 to 325 stores by the company’s 35th anniversary.

1960s: Beyond Chicago

  • 1969: Opening of the first distribution centers beyond Chicago.

1970s: A New Direction

  • 1973: Richard Hesse retired, leading to the sale of Ace to its retailers and restructuring as a cooperative.
  • 1974: Arthur Krausman became president.
  • 1976: Transition to a dealer-owned cooperative.
  • 1978: Achieved national penetration.

1980s: Market Growth and Branding

  • 1984: Start of paint manufacturing.
  • 1980s: DIY market reached $100 billion by the end of the decade.

1990s: Strategic Shifts and Global Expansion

  • Early 1990s: Introduction of private label products, starting with paint.
  • 1990: Creation of Ace International.
  • 1994: Launch of “The New Age of Ace” strategic plan.

2000s: Leadership and Sales Milestones

  • 1986–1995: Under CEO Roger Peterson, Ace’s sales more than doubled.

2010s: Acquisitions and Network Expansion

  • 2012: Acquisition of Westlake Ace Hardware for $88 million.
  • 2015: Achieved $5 billion in wholesale sales.

Recent Developments

  • 2016 and Beyond: Introduction of new advertising campaigns and international expansion.

Key Current Figures (2022)

  • 2022: Over 5,700 locations worldwide.
  • 2022: Revenue of US$9.17 billion.


  • Present: John Venhuizen (President and CEO); Brett Stephenson (Chairman of the Board).

Ace Hardware Corporation’s journey from a small Chicago-based store to a global hardware powerhouse is marked by strategic growth, innovation, and a commitment to meeting the evolving needs of customers and communities worldwide.


Lessons Learned From Ace Hardware

Embrace Teamwork and Collaboration

  • The Power of Partnerships: Ace’s founding story in the early 1920s shows the strength of collaboration. Richard Hesse, Frank Burke, Oscar Fisher, E. Gunnard Linquist, and William Stauber combined their hardware stores into a powerful partnership. This teaches us that working together can lead to greater success than working alone.

Adaptability is Key

  • Changing with Times: Ace’s transition from a small partnership to a wholesaling organization in the late 1920s, and later its adoption of the DIY trend post-World War II, demonstrates the importance of adapting to changing market conditions. They embraced new trends and market demands, a valuable lesson in staying relevant and successful.

Understand Your Market

  • Know Your Customers: Ace’s success in the DIY market, especially in the postwar era, shows the importance of understanding and responding to customer needs. By focusing on what the customers were interested in, like DIY projects, Ace grew significantly. This teaches us the value of listening to and understanding your audience.

Innovation Drives Growth

  • Innovative Strategies for Expansion: The launch of private label products in the 1990s and the introduction of online sales platforms like highlight Ace’s commitment to innovation. This approach kept them competitive and led to expansion and growth. It’s a lesson that innovation is not just about technology but also about finding new ways to meet customer needs and expand your business.

Strong Leadership Guides Success

  • Effective Leadership: The leadership of individuals like Arthur Krausman in the 1970s and the strategic plans launched under Roger Peterson’s tenure as CEO in the 1980s and 1990s played significant roles in Ace’s growth. This underscores the importance of strong, visionary leadership in guiding a company through various phases of growth and challenges.

Ace Hardware Corporation’s journey from a small group of hardware stores in Chicago to a significant player in the global retail industry teaches us valuable lessons about teamwork, adaptability, market understanding, innovation, and leadership.

These are business lessons and life lessons that can guide us in various aspects of our lives.


Questions and Answers about Ace Hardware

When and Where Was Ace Hardware Founded?

  • Ace Hardware was founded in the early 1920s in Chicago, Illinois, by Richard Hesse, E. Gunnard Lindquist, Frank Burke, Oscar Fisher, and William Stauber.

Why Was It Named “Ace”?

  • The company was named “Ace” in 1927, a tribute to the ace fighter pilots of World War I, symbolizing the highest quality and excellence.

How Did Ace Hardware Begin Its Business?

  • Ace began as a purchasing and advertising partnership among several Chicago-area hardware stores and later transitioned to a wholesale organization. It now directly purchases from manufacturers and stores merchandise in its Chicago warehouse.

When Did Ace Hardware Become a Wholesaler?

  • The transition to a wholesaling organization happened shortly after their incorporation in 1928.

What Led to the Expansion of Ace Hardware?

  • Key factors included emphasizing low-cost purchasing and distribution methods, the impact of the postwar DIY revolution, and the opening of their first distribution centers beyond Chicago in 1969.

When Did Ace Hardware Become a Dealer-Owned Cooperative?

  • In 1973, following Richard Hesse’s retirement, Ace was sold to its member dealers and restructured as a dealer-owned hardware cooperative.

What Were Some Major Changes in the 1980s and 1990s?

  • The 1980s and 1990s saw major strategic shifts like introducing private label products (like Ace’s Paint), facing competition, and launching strategic plans for improved performance and international growth.

What Is Unique About Ace Hardware’s Advertising?

  • Ace is known for its iconic slogan, “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man,” which was later modified for gender neutrality. They also used celebrities in their advertising campaigns.

Has Ace Hardware Expanded Internationally?

  • Yes, Ace expanded internationally with the creation of Ace International in 1990 and has since entered markets in Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, and others.

What Are Some Recent Developments at Ace Hardware?

  • Recent developments include the acquisition of Westlake Ace Hardware in 2012, the introduction of the 20/20 Vision strategy, and the expansion of their wholesale distribution network.

How Big Is Ace Hardware Today?

  • As of 2022, Ace Hardware has over 5,700 locations worldwide and reported a revenue of US$9.17 billion.

Who Are the Key People at Ace Hardware Currently?

  • Key people include John Venhuizen, President and CEO, and Brett Stephenson, Chairman of the Board.

Ace Hardware Corporation’s history is a story of strategic growth, adaptation, and commitment to quality and customer service, evolving from a small local partnership to a significant global hardware retail industry player.

More About Ace Hardware

Next, you’ll find links to valuable search results that can help you stay updated with any new information available about Ace Hardware.

Ace Hardware Executive Team

The management team plays a pivotal role in the success of a company like Ace Hardware, which has been in business for a century.

Access the provided link to explore details about current and past management teams, their achievements, and areas where they may have faced challenges.

Working at Ace Hardware

Employee reviews provide insight into management’s treatment of staff. An abundance of legitimate negative reviews may signal management issues and a need for better communication with employees.

Conversely, a surplus of positive reviews suggests effective management practices and a positive work environment fostered by the leadership team’s dedication and efforts.

See the link below to review feedback from employees.

Complaints and Lawsuits

Legitimate complaints and lawsuits often signal management issues, which are more prevalent in larger corporations due to their size.

Social media enables companies to monitor online discourse in the modern business, helping identify trends and valid grievances.

This allows management teams to address and improve these concerns for better performance and customer satisfaction.

See the link below to browse through complaints and lawsuits related to Ace Hardware.

Company Profile

A company profile provides a comprehensive overview, including specialization, mission, products, and services.

For detailed insights into Ace Hardware, visit the provided link to access comprehensive information about the company.

Investment Outlook

If you are interested in investing in Ace Hardware stock, refer to the provided link. It offers stock-related data, prices, trends, and expert predictions to help you make informed decisions.


Books offer in-depth knowledge about Ace Hardware, covering its history, past leaders, and their contributions to its success. Explore these resources to gain a comprehensive understanding.


Stay informed about Ace Hardware through Google News. Access the latest and archived stories about the company via the provided link to stay up-to-date with developments.

See Google’s News search results related to Ace Hardware.


Videos provide valuable insights about Ace Hardware. Watch for related content on-screen to uncover additional information you might have overlooked.

See the most recent videos related to Ace Hardware.


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Ace Hardware – Wikipedia

Ace Hardware Corporation – Company Profile

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