TALLMADGE — Two longtime family businesses with traditions of excellence in their respective communities are joining forces.
The Bierce family, which owns The Henry Bierce Co., is working with the Miller family, owners of Hartville Hardware in Stark County, in a joint venture where the Bierces and Millers will operate two separate businesses in the current Bierce building at 50 Southeast Ave.
Hartville Hardware will be opening a newly renovated 8,000 square-foot retail hardware store on one side while Henry Bierce will continue operating its core business — building materials and landscape supply — on the other side.
Overall, reactions have been favorable, says principal involved
David Bierce, president and general manager of the Henry Bierce Co., said he’s received a lot of positive feedback since the news broke of this cooperative business venture.
“I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls, emails, texts, and a lot of customers just stopping in,” Bierce said. “The thing that feels good about it is that universally the sentiments have been positive — that Hartville Hardware is coming to town but also that we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.” He said he also knows the Millers are “quality people” who place a high value on their employees and the community.
Bierce who runs the business with his brother Tom, the company’s secretary and treasurer, said he believes their regular customers know he and his brother “have never been hardware guys; we’ve always been brick-and-block guys” but hardware was added a number of years ago to make Henry Bierce “the total package” and be more competitive.
“When you get a little older, you try to streamline your world a little bit,” said Bierce, 59, “so we can concentrate on what we do best.” Tom Bierce is 55.
Plans fell into place fairly quickly, David Bierce said. Discussions about phasing out retail hardware sales and tool rentals began in earnest only a couple of months ago. Once they decided they did want out of that end of their business, less than a week later they met with the Millers. David said they talked to the Millers first “because we value their friendship and we wanted them to hear it from us first.”
It wasn’t long after that initial meeting that the two families began talking about working together. Bierce said he learned in their next conversation that the Millers had been talking about opening a satellite store.
“I don’t want to sound too cliche and say it was divine intervention or the stars were aligned, but it just felt like it was meant to be,” Bierce said. He said Henry Bierce Co. will maintain ownership of the property and building and Hartville Hardware will be a tenant.
“We are looking forward to bringing our love of hardware to the Tallmadge community to provide a convenient retail space offering the same expertise, quality products and personal care found in Hartville,” Howard Miller, president of Hartville Hardware, said via a news release.
The Tallmadge location is ideal — close enough to Hartville that people recognize the business but far enough away that it won’t poach existing customers, said Zach Coblentz of Hartville Hardware.
The Millers have served as mentors for the Bierces, David said, primarily for their knowledge and expertise in the retail hardware business. “There’s nobody quite like them in the hardware industry,” he said. Both Hartville Hardware and Henry Bierce are former True Value stores that broke away from that brand around the same time, David Bierce said. They both then became Do It Best stores.
Bierce said selling the same brand and being fairly close helped at times. “If you need one more gallon of paint to finish an order, sometimes it’s easier to run down there and snag it from those guys than trying to get it out of the main distribution warehouse,” he said. “It’s worked out well.”
Starting Friday, the Henry Bierce Co. will hold a public liquidation sale for all hardware, tool rentals and store fixtures. Remodeling will start in July and a grand opening will likely take place in early fall. David Bierce said the Millers plan to keep some Bierce employee faces on the sales floor to maintain the history and connection to Tallmadge.
All 10 of Henry Bierce’s hardware employees will be laid off, David Bierce said, adding they may apply to work for Hartville Hardware. Bierce added he will transfer a couple of the hardware employees to the brick and block side where there are 20 employees.
Business began in 1910
Henry Bierce started his coal and feed business near the Tallmadge Circle in 1910. Over the years Henry’s sons Lucius and David grew the business adding building supplies and a small hardware store to the mix. The third generation, Tom and David Bierce, have managed the operation since Lu’s passing in 1996.
The primary scope of the Henry Bierce Company is the supply of masonry materials to residential, commercial and institutional building projects. Another important component of the business is the Hardscape Supply that features paving and patio brick, retaining walls, natural stone and outdoor living accessories such as fireplaces, pizza ovens, fire pits and outdoor kitchens. The company has a 15,000-square-foot hardscape display.
Tallmadge Mayor Dave Kline said he could not be more excited about Hartville Hardware’s plans to join the Tallmadge community.
“With the Bierce family in business for over 100 years and Hartville Hardware the largest independently-owned hardware store in the nation, no one can dispute their success,” Kline said. “The popular ‘big box’ stores may have made it difficult for the smaller stores to compete, but no one knows customer service like they do. This is a tremendous “win/win” for all of us.”
Hartville Hardware has been owned by Miller family since 1972. It’s been in its current location in Lake Township in 2012. The store is 350,000 square feet.
The Canton Repository contributed to this article.
Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, email@example.com or @SteveWiandt_RPC.