Retirement didn't sit well with John Brown, owner of Barrington's new Ace Hardware. “I spent almost thirty years with the Estee Lauder companies. I retired and said, this is great. That was good for about six months and I said, I'm much too young to retire,” he recalled.
Brown began to look for a business to operate, an endeavor he had considered early on in life. “It was my dream because, about forty years ago. I looked into purchasing (a business) at a much younger age but I didn't have the resources to do it,” he said. “For the last couple of years I've been looking for a business to buy and run myself.”
A consultation with Barrington representatives revealed that a hardware store was high on their wish list, which sat well with Brown. “I've always liked the hardware business,” he said. “I knew there was a need after the Ace closed about five years ago.”
The next step was to set up shop in a convenient location where locals could make quick work of their to-do list without leaving the village. “There's a lot of demand on people's time,” Brown said. “They don't have time to drive 20 or 30 minutes away. They don't have time to shop in big boxes. They want the items they need to do their project and not spend a lot of time getting there.”
The old Fisher Nut building at 906 South Northwest Highway fit the bill and the business opened there in early November with a corner of the store reserved for an assortment of the snacks as a salute to the building's former incarnation.
Like most hardware stores, there is a variety of merchandise, some of which was put in place by Ace Hardware corporation, but Brown has a say about what goes on the shelves and the nuts are one example of that ability.
Brown hopes that his customers will help drive the future of the store by requesting products they don't see displayed. “I have the ability to choose anything we put in our store,” he said. “Initially, Ace has assisted me, since I lack experience in the Hardware business, by putting in core items and categories which is necessary to be a full service hardware store. As we move on and we get customer requests we will consider this and if there are important categories or niches that we should have, we will make some changes and find the space to carry them.”
One of the first lessons learned is that Christmas lights and extension chords are carried away by customers almost as fast as Brown can stock them. Brown credits Christmas tree purveyor Ron Covers of Covers Nursery and Landscaping who grows, tends, cuts and sells his seemingly perfect trees in the parking lot.
“They've been there for 20 or 30 years,” Brown said of the tree stand. “We've been good for him and he's been good for us. He sells trees, we sell lights. My own apology is that we can't get enough lights and extensive cords. It has been truly off the charts.”
Inside the building, Brown's staff brings a wide assortment of expertise to the customer service end of the business. “The training is what they've learned in their life experiences,” Brown said. “We first look for people who have great personalities and can work with customers. The second thing we look for is people who've had experiences and skills and talents. We've hired people who work in the paint industry, we've hired plumbers that have retired. We've hired people who have worked in retail with hardware, we have an architect that can help with projects and also can help find what you need for your individual projects and items and tools. We've hired a landscaper and a designer to help with paint.”
As the business becomes more settled, Brown says customers can expect special events. “Next year we hope to have a lady's night out and guy's night out for Christmas shopping. We hope to have more demonstrations of products, whether it's Weber Grills or how to clean wood floors.”
The store also provides services currently unavailable in the village. “We're beginning to take in screen and glass repair. One of the unique things about this location is that we have a propane filling station,” said Brown who expects The Fire Marshall to approve the propane service presently. “We're also the only business in Barrington that makes keys.”
Locals have been very supportive of the new venture according to Brown. “The receptivity of the customers of Barrington and surrounding areas have been phenomenal. I think about seventy-five percent of them have come in and said thank you for opening Ace Hardware, we've really missed it in this community. I think we can develop a loyal customer who can shop locally.”
All of which pleases Brown who finds a great deal of satisfaction as the owner of the Barrington's Ace Hardware. “I really enjoy working with the neighbors and community. They're such pleasant people and if we can help them it's really a great time,” he said.
“I don't mind working long hours, I don't mind all the headaches we have,” he added. “It's challenging and I've been used to challenges in my life. It's self-satisfying to me to run a successful business and have happy customers.”
906 South Northwest Highway