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Lawrence's Westlake Ace Hardware part of $88 million sale; customers not expected to notice changes at local stores

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The nuts and bolts of the operation of Lawrence’s two Westlake Ace Hardware stores have changed, but company officials are promising customers won’t notice any changes in the, well, nuts and bolts and other items the company sells.

Ace — the giant retail, hardware cooperative based in Oak Brook, Ill. — has purchased the 85-store Westlake chain that operates Lawrence’s two stores.

If at this point, you are thinking that Lawrence’s two stores have long been named Westlake Ace Hardware, you are correct. But the stores have been owned by Lenexa-based Westlake Hardware, which does its purchasing of inventory through the Ace cooperative.

But the deal, which closed this week, means Ace now owns the Westlake stores. Since Ace long has been the supplier for the stores, product offerings at the store aren’t scheduled to change.

A spokeswoman for Ace also told me that there aren’t any plans to change store employees or how the stores are operated. No downsizing is anticapted as part of the deal. Shasha Bigda, director of corporate communications for Ace said consumers shouldn’t notice anything different at the stores. That includes the name. Bigda said the Westlake brand will continue to be used at the stores.

“That name is well known in the markets it serves,” Bigda said.

Reportedly, the deal was worth $88 million, and the terms of the purchase call for Westlake’s management team to remain in place and be based in Lenexa. The management team will report to a separate board within the Ace corporate structure.

The deal represents a new strategy for Ace, which like all cooperatives, is owned by the members it serves. In this case, the approximately 4,200 stores the company supplies, each own a piece of the Ace cooperative. But this new deal flips the equation and marks the first time Ace has owned outright a chain of hardware stores.

It will be interesting to see if that strategy continues for Ace, and whether it starts buying out more traditional mom-and-pop hardware stores in future years. Westlake long ago had stopped being what you would think of as a mom-and-pop operation. It was founded as a single store in Huntsville, Mo., in 1905, but by the 1970s it was expanding into other states. It had grown to become the largest dealer in the Ace cooperative.

The company was family-owned until 2006 when the private equity firm Goldner Hawn Johnson and Morrison purchased the company. So, if you want to think of it in simple terms, I think the end result of this deal is that the profits from the Westlake stores now will go to Ace rather than to the private equity firm.

In Lawrence, Westlake operates stores at 23rd and Louisiana streets and at Sixth Street and Kasold Drive.

Comments

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 12 months ago

Good for them. I would think $88 is the value of the fasteners. At least the last time I purchased some in there.

Joshua Montgomery 1 year, 12 months ago

They have all of the fasteners you need though. Other stores don't have the selection of specialty fasteners you sometimes need to do quality work.

It would suck to have them go out of business. Try finding a stainless steel M7 nylon insert lock nut at Home Depot. If Westlake goes away, you'll need to order all of your specialty fasteners online, then wait 2 days.

That's a bummer when you pine box derby car needs to be racing tomorrow.

I've always enjoyed shopping there and wish them the best of luck.

LogicMan 1 year, 12 months ago

I don't think Westlake will go away. But if you can't find your fasteners there, try Fastenal and Orscheln.

Rusty Thomas 1 year, 12 months ago

The last time I needed a hardware item, I went to Cottins on Mass. St. And, if I bought something which did not work, or I discovered I did not need, they happily refunded my money. Everyone at that local, family-owned store is truly helpful. It's like walking back in time. The folks at the Westlake Ace stores operate the same way. Kudos to both operations.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 12 months ago

Cottin's Hardware is a damn good supplier and provider of excellent customer service.

Need power tools? They can get them for you in a jiffy or two.

KiferGhost 1 year, 12 months ago

Time to get worthless private equity firms out of businesses they don't understand or care about. They only live by the crap taught in business schools that doesn't care about anything except squeezing the last penny out of a decent business. Good move Ace taking it back over.

Carol Bowen 1 year, 12 months ago

There was definitely a change when the family sold Westlake's Hardware. Now, everything is shrink wrapped. Can't buy many of the items we bought before. This will probably be like Sunflower to Knology. I'll wait and see, now that Ace has bought the stores.

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