Ace is the place for 4 generations (and counting)

Ace is the place for 4 generations (and counting)

As a child, Kelly Bednar used to play in the basement of her family’s Ace Hardware in Hot Springs. Today, she and husband Brad own the store – a fixture in the community for almost 90 years. Carrying on her great-grandparents’ legacy as a fourth-generation owner fills her with pride.

“To be able to come up here and be part of this community my family had been a part of was a really cool thing,” Kelly says. “It was amazing to be able to take this over.”

Choosing South Dakota over Florida

Though Kelly’s South Dakota roots run deep, she’s a relative newcomer to the state. Raised in Lakewood, Colorado, she traveled to Hot Springs often to visit family while growing up and always felt a kinship with the town.

“I always loved it up here,” she recalls. “I used to choose to come here on vacation. When my family went to Florida, I’d stay with my grandma in South Dakota.”

Despite those close ties, Kelly hadn’t originally planned on taking over the family business. She earned a degree in elementary education, and Brad managed the popular resort town of Evergreen. But like many Denver suburbs, Lakewood was getting too crowded, and traffic became a nightmare. When Kelly’s dad decided it was time to retire, the Bednars had a change of heart and figured taking over the store would be an opportunity worth pursuing.

“We thought it was a really great move for our family,” Kelly says. “This seemed like a better place to raise our kids, to have more space and be closer to family.”

Catering to community needs

Brad and Kelly relocated to Hot Springs in 2018 and bought the Ace Hardware store from her parents three years later. In the process, they inherited a dedicated staff, several of whom were hired by her grandfather and have worked there for 20 years or longer.

Regular customers have also been shopping there for decades and often reminisce about bygone years.

“People come in all the time and tell me stories about how they used to be able to barter with my grandfather in the good old days,” Kelly shares. “They talk about my grandfather being in caveman costumes for the Crazy Days sidewalk sales. It’s cool to hear stories about how the store has always been an important part of town.”

The days of bartering are long over, and there have been many other changes since her great-grandparents launched the business in 1935. Originally located on River Street, Kelly’s grandfather moved the store to its current location, with triple the space. Not surprisingly, the biggest change over the years has been the inventory. Kelly’s grandfather had hoped to put in a lumber yard, but when those plans fell through, he decided to fill the extra space with something you won’t find at most hardware stores: furniture.

“Hot Springs is an hour from any city where you can buy furniture,” Kelly explains.

Because all Ace Hardware stores are co-ops instead of franchises, and personally owned, they can cater to the needs of the community. In addition to furniture, the Bednars sell appliances, housewares, and giftware – departments that Hot Springs residents don’t have a lot of access to. Other Ace Hardware stores are equally unique; Kelly mentions that some sell pets, others carry liquor, and so forth.

“You can make it what your community needs it to be,” she says. “It’s nice to have that freedom.”

A cliché in the best possible way

They may not have lived in Hot Springs long, but Kelly and Brad quickly fell in love with the community.

“It’s so nice; everywhere you go, it’s familiar faces,” Kelly says. “Everyone is very helpful. That sounds so cliché, but it’s true. Someone you know is always willing to help, offering a hand.”

If you’ve ventured through Hot Springs recently, you’ve probably encountered the road work taking place on the state highway. The Bednars believe this will add to Hot Springs’ charm.

“A lot of exciting and beautiful changes are coming over the next couple of years,” Kelly explains.  “We have had a lot of new businesses, unique shops and eateries, opening recently. A new energy and enthusiasm can be felt all around town, with more to do and a lot more to taste. It’s a really great community to come visit for a day and walk the river, visit the fun shops, and grab a bite to eat.”

Golden West lends a hand … and bandwidth

Golden West has been instrumental in the ongoing success of Ace Hardware, according to Kelly.

“Phones and internet are a huge portion of what we need,” she says. “Our POS (point of sale) system has to have internet to connect to Ace Hardware for all our ordering.”

Brad and Kelly say Golden West is always quick to respond to their needs, helping out any time there are issues, and they frequently see employees in town. Golden West technicians happen to be Ace Hardware customers – yet another draw of living in a small, close-knit community like Hot Springs.

As for the future of their family-owned business: will there be a fifth generation?

“That’s the hope,” Kelly says. “Our kids are a little young right now, but my daughter constantly says she’s the next owner!”

We might just have to check back with the Bednar family in another 20 years or so.



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