Ace Hardware, NAPA businesses adjust to changing customer needs
KINGSFORD — At a time when growing online purchases can put a damper on local sales, the Kingsford Ace Hardware/NAPA Auto Parts is finding ways to adapt.
Local owners the Bruns family recently invested $1 million to expand the store at 555 S. Carpenter Ave., allowed them to increase inventory and add staff for better customer convenience. Now the business plans to offer delivery for the hardware store, using NAPA’s 10-vehicle fleet, store manager Michael Bruns said.
“You have to evolve with the trend. Either you keep up with what is going on around you, or in five years you’re gone,” Bruns said.
Jerry and Gale Bruns of Kingsford opened NAPA Auto Parts in 1984 in a small building behind Dairy Queen in Kingsford. The first location was expanded in 1986 and again in 1988.
In 2004, the Bruns purchased the NAPA Auto Parts store in Marquette and in 2007 they purchased the former Kmart building on Carpenter Avenue. NAPA moved into half of the Kmart building and they started up a True Value Hardware store in the other half.
In 2015, True Value transitioned to an Ace Hardware store. Shortly after the transition, the business added 20,000 square feet to create an indoor showroom for its John Deere products, such as lawn tractors and Gator utility vehicles.
Ace is now selling Benjamin Moore paint exclusively. They have expanded their grilling section, adding more accessories and a line of Blackstone griddles along with Big Green Egg products. The Yeti display includes more coolers and drinkware.
They added pet food and supplies, plus a row or aisle for each section that provides more shelf space for plumbing, electrical, tools, paint, lawn and garden, and other product lines.
They also now offer a bigger line of housewares and cleaning supplies after Shopko closed. “Ace calls it ‘Superset’ — everything is the largest set that ACE has available to us, the biggest assortment of products available,” Michael Bruns said.
Although online shopping trends have had an effect on sales, Bruns isn’t too concerned.
“Some departments have been hurt by online sales — certain things like larger tools have taken a hit — but we are just adapting and not stocking as much of that big stuff, and we’re putting those dollars into other things we do sell, like plumbing fittings and furnace filters. Certain areas are ‘online proof.’ If your toilet breaks, you’re not going to go to Amazon and buy parts and wait two days — you are going come here and get the part and get it fixed right away,” he noted.
Ace also allows for buying online at acehardware.com that then can be picked up in the local store. “Surprisingly we do a lot of that — we get six and eight orders a week … they ship it here for free,” Bruns said.
He thinks the same-day delivery will help as well.
“ACE has initiated a buy online and have same day or next-day delivery. If you’re a rewards member, it will be free for purchases over $50 and if it’s under $50, there will be a small delivery charge. We should be ready to go at the start of the year,” Bruns said.
While the expansion didn’t include the NAPA Auto Parts store run by Mike Bruns’ brother, Shawn, it did free up some additional space for that store as well, Mike Bruns said. The two stores combined employ about 50 people; Mike Bruns credits their knowledge of products for giving them an edge as well in persuading people to shop local.
Original owners Jerry and Gale Bruns still are involved, as is Mike Bruns’ wife, Christine. She and Gale Bruns run the office, and Derek Fortner, Kristin Bruns’ husband, runs the commercial/industrial division. Brother Ryan Bruns runs the NAPA in Marquette.