The following article was published in the February 2017 edition of the Rogue Review, published by the Rockford Chamber of Commerce. (see pdf version)
“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in others the conviction and the will to carry on,” is a quote by Walter Lippmann.
This declaration was tested with those involved in the day-to-day operations of the Rockford Ace Hardware store when its owner, Pete Kruer, died unexpectedly in November of 2016.
When Pete passed away, everyone at Ace Hardware mourned him not only as an employer, but as a family member. His passing also left many in the community questioning whether the store could survive when its extremely public leader was no longer there to handle the reins of the popular store.
Their question has already been answered – and in record time – due to the above quote. Thankfully, there are those who have been working at the store for many years so there has been a continuity and cohesiveness the store is able to experience. Pete’s wife, Amy, still owns the store and has kept the books since its inception and continues to do so. Jenn Rich, the store’s manager has been working at the store for 14 years. Paula Ryder, Pete and Amy’s daughter, is now serving as the store’s Director of Operations.
Paula feels the longevity of the employees proves the closeness of everyone who works at the store and is a big part of the reason it has weathered the storm. She points to Vicki Robinson as proof. Vicki has been with Ace since the Main Street days. Paula is particularly close to Jenn Rich, who was Pete’s “right hand” at the store through the years. “She was my best work friend. We kept the relationship going even when I was out in Colorado.” Jenn and Paula have worked in just about every position in an Ace store. It’s her extensive history in working at a number of hardware stores that enabled Paula to seamlessly step into the Director of Operations role.
She landed her first job out of state at McGuckin Hardware when she first moved to Colorado. Paula worked in the Garden Center and the floral shop. Then Paula moved to Vail and eventually became a manager and head floral designer at A Secret Garden. She and her husband then moved to Denver five years later. It was like fate had a hand in where their apartment was – right down the street from Cherry Creek Ace Hardware. Paula was hired as the Garden Center Manager, but was quickly promoted adding the additional duties of assistant manager of operations, and training employees.
“RMAS (Rocky Mountain Ace Stores) had an amazing training program” Paula shares. “I look back now and am so grateful to have received such extensive training in management, electrical and paint and worked in all the departments.”
“I feel like for the last 10 years I have been training for this position,” explains Paula. “It feels right to be at the store and doing what I am doing.”
Paula admits she is a lot like her dad, with ideas constantly spinning in her head. Jenn is by her side to keep her grounded when it’s needed – just like she did for Pete. The two are looking forward to building on the solid foundation Pete started. They are keeping many of the events their clients enjoy, and are excited to implement many of their collaborative ideas in the future.