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Red Wing chamber honors ACE as the 'helpful place'

The Red Wing Ace Hardware team includes Don Buckley, Shawn Fitzsimmons, yellow Labrador Lexi, owners Lisa and Troy Daniels, and Colin Wulff.

When ACE Hardware owners Lisa and Troy Daniels found out they had won Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce's 2012 Retailer of the Year, the only way they could describe the feeling was shocked.

Since the family has owned their hardware store, it has gone under several changes, from moving locations, passing the ownership role to a daughter and a son-in-law, to introducing a new member of the team -- a yellow Labrador named Lexi.

"We honestly think the dog won the award for us," Lisa said. "She is the best advertising that money doesn't have to buy -- between that and our popcorn."

With or without the dog, the Daniels face challenges that includes a downward economy and competition with the big box stores, the two said.

With the recession, there were fewer contractors seeking contracts with Ace because they are building fewer structures. Filling part of the void were private individuals who started doing more home improvements. The Daniels said they saw their business rearranging itself instead of taking a hit.

By filling niche markets such the local boating interests and other "odd ball things," Troy said, it is possible to have a place in the community. The niches included the people who enjoy the marina with the section for boating, those looking to buy one or two bolts or nuts from the store's 57-foot selection, and those looking to buy a Weber grill from one of the biggest selections in the area.

It is also possible to find a place in the community by providing a level of personal customer service not found elsewhere in the hardware industry, they noted.

ACE Hardware's slogan has been "the helpful place" for years, Troy said. "That's what everybody remembers."

"We are the helpful place," Lisa said. "And we plan to stay that way."

Chamber members recognized all those things in honoring Ace.

The challenge that is more difficult to overcome is the wrath of Mother Nature or, in recent years, lack thereof.

"When it didn't rain for months last year, that's when you see people stop fertilizing. They're not doing yard work; they kind of start to let it go. Last winter when it was so warm all winter long, you sell no shovels, no ice melts, no winter related things," Troy said.

Every year you "you cross your fingers and hope Mother Nature's kind," Lisa said.

Even though last year's light snow left shovels unsold, the Daniels said that the award makes them feel appreciated for their hard work.

"We have good days here and bad days here and I think that getting awards like that make the bad days a little easier to take," Lisa said.