Why Dwight Glover Decided to Purchase an ACE Hardware Store in the Middle of a Pandemic

2020 was a year of change, pivot and resilience for small businesses across the globe. Many small businesses had to assess and recalibrate by developing creative ways to survive the sudden transformation and how everyday business is conducted. On this episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier is joined by Dwight Glover, owner of the ACE Hardware Dunwoody location. Today, Glover shares his story of meeting challenges head on, and discusses his strategies for sustained success during a very challenging year.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome in to The Playbook, Dwight.

Dwight Glover:
Thank you. Glad to be here.

Mark Collier:
All right. So tell me a little bit more about your business, although I’m a Dunwoody resident and I am a customer at your store, but like to-

Dwight Glover:
Thank you for your business.

Mark Collier:
All right. For the viewers who are not aware of your business, kind of share a little bit about your business and what you guys do.

Dwight Glover:
Sure. Well, we’re a traditional hardware store in the heart of Dunwoody. Business was founded in the late ’70s, and so I bought it in June 2020, so right in the middle of the pandemic, no guts, no glory, right?

Mark Collier:
That’s right.

Dwight Glover:
And so we’ve got a loyal, very loyal customer base. A lot of times we get reports that our customers have been going there, so 30, 40 years-

Mark Collier:
Yes, I can see why.

Dwight Glover:
They came with their parents and now they’re bringing their kids there. So it’s really neat to experience that.

Mark Collier:
All right. So first of all, congratulations on being able to make it through 2020, which was a challenging year for everyone. So what was some of your biggest challenges during the pandemic year of 2020?

Dwight Glover:
Well, I guess the two biggest ones were, one was getting inventory in the store. We were deemed an essential business, so we stayed open the entire time, but a lot of our vendors weren’t prepared for the kind of volume we’ve had. That’s a good problem to have, right?

Mark Collier:
Yes. Yes.

Dwight Glover:
But people were at home, pretty much 100% of the time they didn’t have the long commute, so they had a lot of extra free time. So they started doing home projects. So home fix ups, painting, gardening, did a lot of outdoor grilling, so those kinds of things, and so that’s where we came in. But our vendors just weren’t prepared for that, and our warehouse wasn’t prepared for that. So we had to spend a lot of time kind of scouring the country to try to find the inventory.

Mark Collier:
Was that difficult to do? Did you have to reach out to other supplier networks outside of the ACE Hardware?

Dwight Glover:
In some cases we did, we would try to anticipate the needs. Like for instance, when we saw the hurricane forecast that was going to come through Atlanta, we went out trying to get generators and sandbags, inflatable sandbags to prevent flooding, things like that. So we went to other vendors, we just went everywhere we could. We had a heck of a time finding like outdoor space heaters, for example. So had a hard time getting Lysol. So we just kind of went to every vendor we could find, and some cases we could get at some cases we couldn’t.

Mark Collier:
Okay.

Dwight Glover:
Yeah.

Mark Collier:
Well, listen, competitive advantage is the Holy grail of all business models and you compete against some formidable, big box foes in Home Depot and Lowe’s. So kind of share for the ASBN audience, how the ACE Hardware customer experience differentiates you from those competitors.

Dwight Glover:
Yeah. We hear from customers all the time that they come because of our service and because of our selection, those two main things. We try to provide great service. I’ve got a very experienced staff and they’ve been there for a long time and have a lot of deep product knowledge, so they’re able to help customers in ways that maybe some of our competitor employees couldn’t. And also we try to greet the customer when they come into the store, walk them to their item, and then provide additional support on their projects, what they’re working on, what else they might need, and if we don’t have the product, we can order it for them. And so I think that’s a unique service that our competitors and other companies can’t provide. And that’s really our strength and our niche.

Mark Collier:
No, I can attest to that because when I come into your store, I am welcomed, a couple of guys, they even remember me coming in with my son from time to time, so-

Dwight Glover:
Right. Great to get that feedback.

Mark Collier:
No, I certainly attest to that. And customer service, Dwight is a lost art nowadays, it really is. You walk into some of these cavernous, big box stores and you just feel lost. You have to literally hunt for someone to assist you. So again, I see why your business model is well received, and I can see why you’re doing well.

Dwight Glover:
Yeah.

Mark Collier:
All right. So, speaking of doing well, what adjustments to your strategy for this current year of 2021 as a result of the pandemic, have you had to make?

Dwight Glover:
Well, the biggest one was trying to find additional sources of inventory. But we’ve also started upgrading the store. We added new automatic doors, we’ve upgraded the fixtures, bringing in new product. The goal is to try to, we’ve had a lot higher volume and customers, the thought is what can we do to keep them coming in after the pandemic? So bringing in a lot of new product, and my wife’s been helping me on kind of gift areas, upgrading that department. So those kinds of things, just continuing to provide great service, adding new product, keeping it moving, and upgrading the store. Also, we’ve tried to go more local. So we’ve partnered with a lot of nonprofits in the city, we’ve worked with the city, they’ve done a program to put picnic tables outside of the restaurants in the area, so they can provide outdoor seating.

Dwight Glover:
And they’ve allowed or partnered with a lot of the local nonprofits to paint those. And so we provided the free painting and paint supplies to do that, and they’ve come up with some really beautiful designs and you can see them all over to the City of Dunwoody. We’ve sponsored the Dunwoody Nature Center and partnered with them to bring in native plants to the store. We’ve partnered with the Dunwoody High School business students, and so the student run businesses have been selling their goods outside of the store. We’ve also tried to bring in new local products like this Sunday, we had a tasting of a local jam company, Emily G’s. And so trying to bring in local products as much as we can, work with the nonprofits and the city, to really get ourselves deeply involved in the City of Dunwoody. City’s been great to us, and so we’re trying to be great back to them as well. So that’s the biggest thing we try to do. Yeah.

Mark Collier:
That is a great strategy. I mean, you’re a local business who is very important to dominate your local market, so any type of engagement and endearing yourself to local community is going to drive not only brand awareness, but hopefully that’ll trickle down into revenue generation as well.

Dwight Glover:
That’s what we hope. Yeah.

Mark Collier:
All right. Now, another thing that I see you guys do very well is seasonality. I mean, you’ve got your spring season, your summer planting season, your fall, your Christmas, and you guys do a great job of capturing the seasonality of particular segments and really capitalizing on that. So want to commend you for that as well.

Dwight Glover:
Well, thank you. That’s something we work really hard on. We have to turn over the store two or three times during the year, so you’ll see a lot of change in the store. We got some customers ask us, “Are you closing the business or something?” Because we’re taking down aisles and putting up new stuff. So, if it’s constant change, it keeps employees busy, but they all love working there and they’ve done it for a long time. So it makes it fun too.

Mark Collier:
All right. Now let’s look forward. Where do you go from here? Where do you see your business in the next three to five years? And what new challenges do you see for ACE Hardware on the horizon?

Dwight Glover:
Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of like I mentioned earlier, the big thing is trying to keep the customers that we’ve gained through the pandemic, providing new products, constantly upgrading the store keeping it fresh, and I think we can improve a lot on the online sales, improve our platform. We’re doing a lot more kind of online marketing, and a lot more, like Facebook, Instagram, types of activities, trying to stay fresh with that. So it’s just thinking about how we can go local, but also do more of the online activity. It was kind of the two main things.

Mark Collier:
Sure. Well, digital marketing is now front and center in terms of what marketing is all about. I know we worked with you at my organization, UGA SBDC to kind to help you.

Dwight Glover:
Yeah. It has been great help on that. Yeah.

Mark Collier:
Well, I appreciate that. We will hopefully continue to.

Dwight Glover:
Hope so. Yeah.

Mark Collier:
All right. Dwight Glover, ACE Hardware, Dunwoody store owner. I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy day to come into The Playbook, and kind of share your journey from dealing with the pandemic year, to your goals and aspirations for the future.

Dwight Glover:
Thanks. Thanks for having me here. Enjoyed being here.

Mark Collier:
All right. Great.


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