JEL INEK JOURNAL
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BUILDING A LEGACY HowMy Grandpa Built a Successful Hardware Chain
During World War II, my grandfather, George, ran a hardware shop in Grand Island, Nebraska, just a few miles down the road from a 24/7 ammunition production plant. We spent the summers of my childhood visiting my grandparents, and I remember marveling at the aisles full of tools and supplies. It got bigger and bigger every time we visited! Yet, no matter how much it grew, each customer that walked in was met with a greeting and someone asking, “How can I help you?” Grandpa made sure that everyone who came in bought just what they needed and knew how to tackle their weekend projects. Like most mom and pops of that era, Grandpa kept his store open Monday–Saturday, taking Sunday to rest and recover. But support and supplies for the ammunition plant couldn’t take a rest. During the war, the military was in need of constant support, and Grandpa knew just how to fill that demand. Rather than opening six days a week, Grandpa shifted his hours and opened his shop every day, working a half day on Sundays. He edged out his competition by becoming the factory’s go-to guy, since he was available each day. His intuition and diligence to his customers couldn’t be matched by other stores, and soon, his business reaped the benefits. When he wasn’t shaping the hardware landscape, Grandpa had a few hobbies to keep him busy. He was passionate about keeping bees in the backyard, despite Grandma’s severe allergy to them. There was no rhyme or reason for his beekeeping, but he had a bundle of hives that he would regularly tend to and collect honey from, all while wearing a big white suit. But, there was a special hobby he closed his shop for on Sunday afternoons. Instead of going home, Grandpa would head down to the creek, drop a pole in the water, and fish. Those riverbanks were his church and therapist rolled into one. It was a time for him to get away from the
days he spent selling parts to handymen and the government, and no shop talk was allowed. After years of building his shop, Grandpa passed his store down to my uncles. They turned his small hardware store into a booming business, joining the
franchise and opening five Ace Hardware stores across
Nebraska. At one point, they were even one of the largest producing hardware stores in the country.
I cannot think of a better foundation for a company to build on than the dedication of my no-nonsense, Joe Fixit grandfather. He was the backbone for one of Nebraska’s most well-known hardware stores, and to this day, his legacy continues through his sons. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model, and I’m proud to be his grandson.
– H. Charles Jelinek, Jr., DDS
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