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Ready to help: Spring gives ACE Hardware the chance to share knowledge, bring projects to life
It’s not every day that Marty Mattila gets brownies on the job.
But there the customer was, carrying a big plate of brownies for Marty, the Lawn and Garden Manager at North Bend ACE Hardware.
The treats were a nice reward for Marty’s recent effort in stocking up on specialty organic products. But Marty was only doing his job as a helpful member of the hometown hardware store. Brownies “just add to the satisfaction,” he says.
A few years ago, organics made up a small section of the ACE shelves. Today, they’re the bulk of the section. Marty makes a point of putting them out in view, right in front of customers. He knows that his selections will work.
“It’s fun to see success,” he says.
Ready to shine
As winter retreats and the sun starts to shine, the staff at North Bend’s ACE Hardware start to change gears.
Shelves are reorganized, ice melt and snow shovels give way to fertilizers, barbecues and outdoor necessities, and the staff gets ready for the big spring projects.
“It’s a change of focus,” says store manager Chris McCartney. “When the sun comes out, people want to get outside.”
The local hardware store actually starts planning for spring the prior year, ordering goods, attending training sessions and conventions, and boning up on the latest best practices. Their knowledge is put to the test when winter passes, and homeowners’ thoughts turn to backyard tasks, do-it-yourself home improvement, and the perfect lawn or garden.
After two years of cool springs, the onset of a warm season in the Valley means locals are good and ready to get outside and get some work done. Marty is already set with the latest products, including a newly expanded organics section. He made extra room this season for Doctor Earth, a line of soils, supplements and fertilizers.
Chris gives his section managers, like Marty or nursery leader Kitty Holland, the responsibility to select and promote the right products.
“I trust that they’re going to bring in the right stuff,” he says.
At ACE, that expertise runs throughout the store. Store staff come from industries ranging from contracting and electrical work to lawn care and seed sales. Chris says that translates to a big knowledge base.
“At any time, someone can come in here, with a complex problem, and we’ve got the knowledge to take care of them,” he says. In-store and outside trainings, travel to national conventions and trade shows, all have a hand in keeping staff sharp. A lot of it comes from their background, too.
Folks like Marty and Kitty also have a genuine love of helping customers. For employees of a local hardware store, it’s a prime source of satisfaction.
“What’s really nice is when people have a project they’ve dreamed up, and they come to us,” Kitty says.
ACE staff sometimes have to solve problems and find obscure gear to make those dreams come true.
Besides being a knowledge base, the local ACE is a gathering place.
“A lot of people meet up here and are happy to see one another,” Kitty says. When a tip or product works, “they pass it on,” she says.
Besides the breadth of knowledge, ACE Manager Chris says locals might be surprised at the number and variety of products that their local hardware store has on its shelves.
“When I’m full out there, I have 6- to 8,000 plants,” Kitty says. “I look for new and interesting plants, that make this place special. I’m bringing in things that are new to people, all the time. We’ve built up a high reputation for nursery stock.”
Shoppers get it, Marty says. The store’s selections draw people from all over the Eastside.
“We try and carry that thought throughout the store,” Chris says. For example, ACE this year stocked the Craftsman tool line, as a partnership between the hardware chain and Sears.
“It’s a great partnership between two names that are known for great service,” Chris says.
Kitty often gets repeat customers, relying on her for a special touch.
“There are a lot of people who come in and have me pick out their plants and baskets,” she says. “They say, ‘Wow, it really turned out good. Can you do that again for me?’”
Every time a customer comes back with a success story, be it for the fishing tackle or the fertilizer they purchased, Marty gets a sense of accomplishment. He compares working at a hardware store to being a family member—people rely on him.
“It’s a great feeling,” Marty says.
• North Bend ACE is at 330 Main Ave South in the Mount Si Village shopping center. Call the store at (425) 888-1242, or visit northbendace.com.