Michelle Pike’s plan when she opened Oceanside Ace Hardware in 2016 was to create a community asset.
She had worked in the biotech industry for years and wanted to start a business, but the type of new business was secondary to what she hoped to contribute to her city.
“For me, getting into hardware wasn’t about hardware,” Pike says.
Her goals were to create a business that participates actively in local events and organizations, finds opportunities to be generous to meaningful causes and offers an environment where employees enjoy working.
Pike hadn’t worked in retail in more than 20 years and she had never owned a business. But Oceanside, a coastal city in Southern California, had plentiful surf shops and very few nearby options for buying the home improvement products residents needed.
“There was a gaping hole in the community,” she says.
So, she opened Oceanside Ace Hardware with a basic mix of electrical, hardware and plumbing products, as well as beach supplies such as chairs, umbrellas, grills and grilling accessories.
Support From Ace Corporate
Pike turned to Ace Hardware Corp. to help her develop her business idea and found an 8,500-square-foot store location two blocks from the beach. Support staff from the co-op helped her negotiate the lease, design the store layout, hire and train employees, merchandise the entire store and promote the grand opening.
“The support Ace offers is extremely valuable,” Pike says. “During the first couple of months, I don’t know if I would’ve made it without that support.”
Another bonus to partnering with Ace is that the co-op makes it easy for retailers and customers to donate to local children’s hospitals, she says. Ace provides chocolate bars and buckets to sell in support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Shoppers are also given the option to donate money at the cash register.
“It’s built right in and it makes you feel good about what you’re doing,” Pike says.
Creating a Culture
One of Pike’s top priorities when opening Oceanside Ace Hardware was to develop a business with a culture that employees and customers appreciate.
She has intentionally hired people who contribute to a social, cheerful work environment and then she focuses on retaining those people.
“We’re pretty choosy about our staff. We want to make sure they’re the kind of people we want to hang out with and who people want to talk to,” she says. “The manager and I work hard to find out what motivates them and we encourage them in ways they care about. For me, retention is about treating employees with respect and making the store a fun, friendly place to be.”
Philanthropy is a consistent part of Oceanside Ace Hardware’s work culture. For example, the store donated eight grills to area fire departments, participates in the community’s Main Street association and contributes to the Ace co-op fundraisers for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
In addition, the store always has reggae music playing in the background and employees wear Oceanside Ace shirts with surfboards on them.
“The thing I’m most proud of is the atmosphere and vibe of the store,” Pike says. “We’ve created a place where people want to be.”