A to Z Supply in Grass Valley breaks ties with Ace Hardware | TheUnion.com

A to Z Supply in Grass Valley breaks ties with Ace Hardware

April Reese, Dan Wheat Sr. and Dan Wheat Jr. have made the decision to sever their relationship with Ace Hardware and say A to Z Supply.

A to Z Supply is going indie.

As of today, the hardware and feed store on Ridge Road has officially severed its association with mega-corporation Ace Hardware.

Dan Wheat Sr., who who owns A to Z with his son, Dan "D.J." Wheat Jr., actually ran A to Z Supply as an independent hardware store for 15 years before joining Ace in 1999, buying from 40 to 50 different suppliers.

At the time, Wheat said, it made sense to become part of the Ace Hardware cooperative, because he gave the business an opportunity consolidate its buying.

"Back then, Ace very much catered to small and mid-size stores," he said. "But they have taken their focus away from that. Now, they open 12,000-square-foot stores in shopping centers; it's more of a cookie-cutter approach, and the stores are more upscale, where we're looking to be more hometown."

About three or four years ago, Wheat said, A to Z decided it needed to go in a different direction.

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Ace kept rolling out an increasing array of programs the store was required to implement, he said, that "didn't fit our clientele or who we wanted to be."

"A lot of the items they promote, we had to (stock), but they didn't fit our clientele and our area," Wheat said. "We would have to sell them at or below cost to get rid of them.

Then, too, Ace sometimes would run out of the product being promoted, which was frustrating to the store and to its customers.

A to Z turned to Orgill, a wholesale distributor founded in 1856, and started buying product from them. About nine months ago, Orgill launched a program that offered lower pricing and bigger rebates for its customers, and the Wheats decided to make the switch.

A to Z has been purchasing Orgill product ever since, Wheat said. On Nov. 1, the Wheats notified Ace they wanted to sever the relationship.

"We wanted to be independent again," Wheat said. "We wanted to be able to pick and choose what we advertise, to fit our customer base."

A to Z's customers likely have not noticed the switch to Orgill, although Wheat said the store now has a much broader selection. Two obvious changes: the Ace Hardware sign has come down and the store has brought back its 1970s logo, an elephant reclining in a bathtub — a nod to Wheat's plumbing background and his memory.

"I used to know the retail prices of everything in the store," he said with a laugh. "That's where the elephant came from."

Orgill representatives reorganized the interior of the rustic wood structure, which was originally built in the 1950s as a combination secondhand store and feed store.

It changed hands several times after that; Wheat bought the business in 1984 and added the nursery, with daughter April Reese at the helm, in 2002. At the start, three generations, including Wheat's father, worked at A to Z — and now, with one of D.J's sons in the mix, three generations work there again.

In A to Z Supply's nearly 35-year history, the Wheats have sought to maintain a reputation for having hard-to-find and unique items, along with a strong niche in its canning and beekeeping supplies.

"We want to be known as the hometown hardware store with world-class service," Wheat said. "I think we do a better job of that than most in town."

The Wheats would like to purchase the store and expand it, but the owners have never wanted to sell, he said. Over the years, they have considered moving across the street and building a bigger store.

But, noted Wheat, some customers probably would be upset if the store changed in any way.

"This facility works," he said, adding that newcomers to Nevada County often tell him A to Z is just the kind of hardware store they hoped to find here. "We have the right atmosphere — we're doing the right thing."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

Know & Go

What: A to Z Supply

Where: 13396 Ridge Road, Grass Valley

Winter hours: 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

For info: Call 530-273-6608 for the main store, 530-274-3871 for the garden center, or go online at https://atozsupply.com/

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