People often say “Wow!” when they walk into HomCo Ace Hardware for the first time, says Mike Brackin, the store’s owner. “They are surprised about how big our store is, the color on the walls, the color on the floors. It’s not a stale, dull store. It’s alive,” he said.
“We are trying to give a ‘wow’ experience at the store. We do a very good job and we can always do better, so we keep working on doing better,” he said.
One of the things that make HomCo stand out among other similar and even larger chain stores is the service. “The difference is my people care. We just don’t talk about service, we train for service,” Brackin said. “When you walk into a particular department and you have questions, they have answers. They are very seasoned. It’s easier to give that ‘wow’ experience.”
HomCo is the largest ACE Hardware in Arizona. It not only caters to the do-it-yourself homeowner, but it has a thriving business for the construction professional.
The building is 50,000 square feet. The retail floor space is 19,000 square feet and there is a warehouse of 22,000 square feet. They became an ACE Hardware in 1990 for the national presence, buying power and the additional retail support, Brackin explains.
“We’ve been in business for 37 years. It was started by my father, Don, in 1975,” he said. “Prior to him starting this business, he worked for a company called Payless Cashways for 15 years.” That business was started by his grandfather.
“My dad went to work for him in 1958 and started his own business in 1975. I started to work for my dad when I was 16 and it is the only job I’ve ever had,” said Brackin, who is 54. “The industry and the business have been very good to me. I’ve had a lot of fun and I never second guessed what I have done with my life.”
Because of the recession, the last few years have been bumpy for the business, but it has survived because he has a great staff who can think outside of the box.
“Although we’ve had some hard times, the attitudes of everyone have been very upbeat and energetic,” he said. “It made it easier to reinvent ourselves and find new customers. They really work their butts off.”
Brackin obviously takes pride in his employees, many of whom have been with him for years, like Rodney Timberlake who is in his 24th year. All of them are experts in their field, so when a customer walks in and asks about paint, the answer comes from years of experience. The same is true in lumber or any of the other departments at the store.
And they continue to evolve so as to appeal to their changing customer base. “We take on new product lines and are trying to relate to the female shopper,“ he said. “This last year, we had a ladies night promotion, a party after hours for women. We catered it. We had a fashion show and specials for women. It was very successful. We plan to expand it this year.”
Not to give away any secrets, but Brackin was at a trade show recently and picked up some items that could be considered “bling” for the ladies and items for cooking for both genders, as well.
“We do something different than the typical ACE Hardware,” he said.
Although every one of his 70 employees is valuable to him, there are two people who he really needs: his two assistants, Rod Callan and Troy Ricci. “I couldn’t do it without them.” FBN
HomCo Ace is at 1763 E. Butler Ave., in Flagstaff. It can be reached at 928-779-6111 or by visiting homcoflagstaff.com.