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2018 Young Retailer of the Year: Byron Clouse

Byron Clouse

Owner
Lewiston Ace Hardware
Lewiston, Michigan
Multiple-Store Operation

I truly believe you make a living by what you earn, but you make a life by what you give.

 

Byron Clouse is one of those retailers who is not afraid to think big and think outside the typical boundaries of a hardware store. A fourth-generation retailer, he grew up working for his family’s business, which included both a hardware store and grocery store. He dreamed of owning his own business since he was a young teenager, so it’s no surprise that by the time he was 20, he was helping the family open and manage a brand new hardware store in Lewiston, Michigan.

Then, in 2012, he and his father began looking at a retail building in Oscoda, Michigan, as a potential site for a new location. The 43,000-square-foot building was large enough, Clouse told his father, to house a hardware store along with a full grocery store. While the family had experience running both types of operations separately, combining them was an ambitious idea. Clouse was certain it would work and took the lead to make it happen. He began studying similar store setups across the country to craft his vision.

He also acted as general contractor to renovate the building, plan the layout, fill the store with merchandise and hire 50 employees, all within four months. Today, the store has a 10,000-square-foot Ace Hardware store and a 33,000-square-foot grocery store, complete with a full deli, beer cave and even a gift shop.

With the new store in Oscoda up and running, Clouse and his father purchased an existing hardware store in Gladwin, Michigan, in 2015. His newest store is in Hillman, Michigan.

While expanding to new locations is part of Clouse’s strategy, he continues to strengthen his existing stores to best serve customers. After his combination grocery and hardware store proved successful, he also successfully integrated a full NAPA Auto Parts store into his Lewiston location. Each of his locations has a gift shop, sporting goods and nurseries—truly offering something for everyone.

Clouse also strongly believes in improving his community. He has been involved with the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce for more than eight years, where he has made a big impact by taking leadership of its Timberfest community festival. The festival was at risk of being canceled due to lack of interest of leadership and low revenue. Clouse volunteered his business acumen and community relationships to turn it around. He brought in new vendors, entertainment, and attractions for children. The first Timberfest Clouse oversaw netted $10,000, and in the years since, has earned more than $65,000 for the chamber and the community of Lewiston. 

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton
Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NRHA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.