Trig’s goes ‘outside the tool box’
It may not be a trendy clothing store or new restaurant, but Rhinelander’s new hardware store has gotten a lot of attention since opening its doors on last week.
Just more than a year after Lakeland True Value, a Rhinelander institution, went out of business, and more than a decade after downtown’s last hardware store, Hardware Hank, closed its doors, a familiar name in the Rhinelander business community has brought a familiar small town standby to town.
Trygve Solberg and Lee Guenther, co-owners of T.A. Solberg Co. Inc. decided to open Ace Hardware in the Trig’s RiverWalk Centre, in the former Goodwill location. It is the predominantly retail grocery company’s first venture into the hardware business.
“It’s certainly been a learning process for everyone, but it’s one we’re all excited about,” said Alan Alden, the Director of Retail Operations for T.A. Solberg Co. Inc. “I’m personally very excited to be working for a company that continues to invest in the communities its in.”
Alden said company officials first began negotiating with the Ace Hardware chain at last year’s International Grocers Convention in Las Vegas.
“Ace as a company has had a lot of success combining with grocers,” said Alden. “They initially showed a lot of interest in looking at this market, and it kind of grew from there.”
Alden said that Ace officials came to Rhinelander in spring to perform a market study to gauge the chances of success a store would have downtown. What they found were residents who have been urgently waiting for months for a convenient hardware store to buy everything from nails and paint to irons and brooms. “They determined that the community wanted this, and would support it,” said Alden. “There is a lot of market research that goes into these types of decisions-more than most anyone would believe.”
As the old song goes, location is key.
“It’s on a lot of families’ routes: church, hardware store, supermarket and back home,” said Alden. “We think that our Trig’s store and our Ace store serving as anchors will be a mutual draw. It will be a good thing for both stores.”
Convenience and customer service are the most mentioned factors in Rhinelander resident’s excitement about the store opening, according to Alden.
“It means being able to find the perfect fix for what you’re doing,” Said Alden. “Sometimes you really need someone to coach you along on home repair.”
Alden pointed out that the company also looked at its other retail locations before deciding that Rhinelander’s downtown was the beset location for the new store.
“Trygve and this company have always been big believers in downtown Rhinelander,” said Alden. “I know I personally hate to see stores leaving downtown to go someplace else. I think this venture can be a great shot in the arm for downtown Rhinelander.”
Alden said the company put a lot of effort into its personnel decisions for the store. The first hire they made, Store Manager Dale Micke, is a familiar name in the local hardware trade, as he formerly served as an assistant manager at Lakeland True Value.
“Dale understands the hardware industry, and he’s been invaluable as we’ve stocked the store with product and personnel,” said Alden. “He brought a few people he’s worked with in the past with him, and has been wonderful training the employees that are new to the hardware industry.” Alden said the store’s job postings were first advertised internally within the Trig’s family of locations, and several employees-including the store’s assistant manager-decided to make the switch from grocery to hardware.
“We actually had a few employees who dreamed to work in a hardware store like this, so that was pretty neat to see,” said Alden. “The staff here has picked things up very quickly. They know their stuff.”
In addition to tools and hardware, the store offers rental opportunities for many power tools and even furniture fit for hosting events, such as banquet tables and chairs. The store is also in the process of hiring employees skilled in tool and small engine repair, with the goal of servicing the brands it sells. The aim is to be a one-stop shop for the community.
“We did a lot of looking around this community to see what was easily available and what wasn’t,” said Alden. “This store if filling in a lot of those cracks.”
Alden also pointed out that the new store has led to increased interest in several of the currently unoccupied spaces in the RiverWalk Centre. “The company is currently engaged in discussions to get additional tenants in those open spots,” said Alden. “The new store is certainly creating an additional draw.”
Alden said the new store is already fully stocked. He said he is ready to supply the neighborhood with suggested items-with well-known brand names such as Craftsman, Steil, Carhartt and Weber.
“People have been coming in all week saying they are surprised to find a place like this that they have really needed,” he said. “Everyone is excited, and so are we.”