Vashon Ace Hardware celebrating 40th anniversary

This fall marks 40 years since islanders Al and Laura Snyder opened their hardware store in the Thriftway shopping center.

The store carried the moniker True Value at that time, and the Oct. 27, 1977, Beachcomber that announced the opening of the store reported the couple chose to open the business so they could spend more time together and “do something that served the community.” Four decades later, the store is now under the Ace Hardware umbrella, is more than 6,000 square feet larger than it was in 1977 and is owned by the Snyder’s son, Doug, and son-in-law, John Yates, who bought in in 2011.

“We’re still a family-owned business,” Yates said. “We’re free to do as we please. The name ‘Ace’ just gives you the buying power.”

Much besides the corporate name associated with the store has changed — Yates said the gentrification of the island can be felt at the store as there are less do-it-yourselfers and more paid contractors shopping there — but the same desire to do something for the community lives on.

“Our core value is the same here as it was in 1977. People come in looking for answers and we hope we have the tools and expertise to get them answered,” he said. “That will never change, and that’s how we compete.”

Another trend Yates has recognized is that YouTube and its vast library of videos that teach people how to do everything from electrical and plumbing to automotive and home improvement projects is bringing in a population that has been somewhat underrepresented in society when it comes to hardware stores and construction projects: women.

“We see more and more women doing plumbing and electrical projects. YouTube gives them the confidence to try it,” Yates said.

When asked how they are able to stay relevant in a place where businesses sometimes turn over quickly, general manager Kevin Linnell and Yates both said it’s all about having the right people. He noted most of the store’s employees have been at the store for more than eight years.

“We have had employees for a long time,” Linnell said. “This is all just hardware, it’s not rocket science. We hire for personality and can teach hardware.”

Some of the most common questions Yates and Linnell receive are general how-tos: how to plant a lawn, how to wire a lamp and how to fix a drippy kitchen faucet.

“Each situation has a different twist,” Yates said. “It’s repetition. We get a lot of the same questions.”

With customers in mind, the store will be holding a 40th anniversary celebration this Saturday called the Bigger Bucket Sale. Let’s just say it involves discounts, trash cans and packing said cans with as much merchandise as possible.

“It takes a lot to run a small business, and without the island supporting us, we wouldn’t be here,” Linnell said. “We see that support. We’ve never done anything like this before.”

Linnell went on to explain that there were two lumber yards and a hardware store in or near town when the Snyders opened, but the store has survived when others have fallen.

“That’s why we’re grateful for 40 years, because so many (hardware stores) have left,” he said. “The bottom line is it’s not a success story of us, but of the community. The sale is celebrating the customers.”