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