Family expanding chain of Ace Hardware stores to Germantown

September 15, 2017

By Joe Taschler | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A family-owned chain of Ace Hardware stores in Milwaukee’s south suburbs is expanding northward, with a new location in Germantown set to open in January.

The Gil family, owners and operators of Harry’s Ace Hardware in Franklin and South Milwaukee Ace Hardware, plans to open Germantown Ace Hardware on Jan. 2.

Ben Gil, a second-generation family owner, will run the Germantown store, which will be located at N112 W16268 W. Mequon Road in a strip shopping center that contains a Pick ‘n Save grocery store and a Dollar Tree store as its largest tenants.

“Hopefully, we’re going to be a big part of Germantown,” Gil said. “We are really going to jump in with both feet into the community.”

Ace is the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the world.

“Ace has phenomenal procurement power by the thousands of Ace franchisees all aggregating their buying,” said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a consumer industry business consulting firm in New York City.

At the end of the second quarter, Ace had 4,357 stores in the U.S. and another 667 stores in more than 60 countries around the world.

Gil said being a small business competing against behemoth home improvement warehouses is part of the business plan.

“We’re just going to service the heck out of the customer and find our niche in the market,” he said. “And hopefully, when they are driving to the hardware store, they won’t drive by ours to get to” a competitor’s store.

The store will offer sharpening services, small engine repair, pool and spa water testing, a propane filling station and pipe threading, among other services.

“We’re going to be a full-service hardware store,” Gil said.

That strategy has proven successful for Ace.

“Ace is the proverbial David vs. Goliath story,” Flickinger said. “It’s one of the most successful franchise businesses anywhere in the world.”

The Germantown store will have about 10,000 square feet. The interior is being gutted and new LED lighting is being installed.

Stocking the store with merchandise will begin during the first and second week in November.

The store will employ 15 to 20 people, at least five of them full-time, Gil said.

Ace was founded in 1924 by a small group of Chicago hardware store owners. There are 130 Ace Hardware locations in Wisconsin.