Westlake Ace Hardware is hoping to open a third store in Columbia.
Harold Elsberry, Westlake Ace Hardware’s president and CEO, said Friday the company wants to expand in Columbia and is looking into potential locations in the Nifong-Providence area.
Elsberry made the comment while visiting the Westlake Ace store at 1910 W. Worley St. Elsberry and David Hodnik, president and CEO of Ace, were in town to give store manager Rex Neil and his employees a national award for outstanding customer service and performance.
Along with being recognized as Team of the Quarter, employees each received a one-hundred dollar bill.
“There’s a lot to be said for what it takes to get here,” Hodnik told the 40 Westlake employees on hand for the event. “When customers become raging fans of our store because of what we do, that really gets around in the community.”
Hodnik also read an appreciative letter from a Westlake Ace Hardware customer, who complimented nearly a dozen of the West Worley store’s employees by name. Hodnik said the company trains its workers on the products it sells and even provides them manufacturer videos and CDs to help improve their service.
“Product knowledge, service, helpfulness. We think we do an extremely good job of those,” Hodnik said. “Having product knowledge to answer consumers’ questions ... it’s beyond the face value of some other services.”
Hodnik says good customer service is key for Ace as it competes with the trend in “big box” stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, which have opened locations in Columbia in the past couple of years. The first Westlake Ace Hardware opened in downtown Columbia in 1959, where it remained until it moved to West Worley in 1979.
Elsberry said Westlake was “doing well” with its two locations in Columbia — the other is at 1900 Business Loop 70 E. — but that a third store would help Westlake Ace remain competitive.
There is currently one vacant building in the Providence and Nifong area, and another could be vacant by the end of next year. The Nowell’s supermarket has been empty since February, and a Wal-Mart in the same shopping center will close when a new Wal-Mart Supercenter opens at Grindstone Plaza. Construction on the Supercenter is scheduled to begin in the spring.
Ace has 49,000 independently owned stores throughout the world, making it the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the industry. Westlake, based in Lenexa, Kan., operates 78 stores in eight states and will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2005.
Friday marked the first time the Worley store has won the relatively new award.
“The employees made this award possible, being friendly, outgoing associates,” Neil said.
Employee Cory Gillispie said receiving the award meant a lot.
“I think it’s impressive,” Gillispie said. “(Hodnik) chose us because we’re the best store right now.”