With a new 40,000 s.f. two-story structure literally growing before their eyes, Mike Moldenhauer and Patrick Murdoch took time to discuss their plans and preparations for Ace Hardware (managed by Mike) and Mike’s Market (managed by Pat). The large facility looms over Garden City, Utah, and has been under construction since November, a swiftly moving undertaking that Mike commented is running very smoothly under R& Construction, which has overseen Ace projects in many locales. Mike stated, “We could not have done this without them.”
- On the second floor, the mezzanine offers 100 seats to enjoy the bakery’s delicacies and it overlooks Bear Lake through the east-facing windows or the customers busily moving among the fully-stocked rows. The northeast area’s fuel island can accommodate twelve towing vehicles near the pumps. A glass green house on the south end will contain a wide selection to fill yards and gardens. Lumber will be stocked as part of the new Dan’s Ace Hardware. More than 100 employees ages 16 to 82, selected for their customer-friendly personalities, are eager to guide customers to the items requested. Winter season employees are expected to total 40 and summer-time will see an increase to 110 employees — 90 in the grocery and 20 at Ace. Many employees stay at the KOA or the nearby campground, both of which are owned by the Moldenhauer family. There are 35 college students among those hired for the initial workforce. A guesstimate of stocking figures puts the hardware store alone at 35,000 to 45,000 items – a huge inventory to organize. Grocery inventory is similarly large and both were ordered early for delivery on the west side of the building. Inventory control will be run electronically through a program tracking sales and simultaneously arranging replacements.
Of particular interest is the bank located on the grocery end. The institution’s name is not yet available for publication but it is expected to offer full services in the target market. The management pair plan “to hit everybody from Randolph to Paris and we don’t want to be a seasonal grocery or Ace – we want to compete with Logan to save people making that trip in the winter!” said Pat. While efforts are underway to decrease the amount of time required to move wares from the current store to the new point of sale, it is possible Ace will close for a month, not only for the relocation, but also to raze the old store to make way for 160 parking stalls – 10 of which accommodate trucks with trailers. In a customer-oriented enhancement, patrons are encouraged to place orders online. Employees will fill the order and, as scheduled online, customers can visit the store where the order will be loaded to the patron’s vehicle. Both the grocery and Ace are opening simultaneously on May 21st. The date is significant, being exactly 20 years to the day when the Moldenhauer family purchased the Garden City Ace Hardware and KOA. As Mike said, “We had no idea when we purchased this what we were getting into with the KOA since none of us had ever run a campground.” Now, the company’s seven stores range from Bear Lake to Winthrup, Washington, or Rexburg (where the corporate offices are located). Mike handles Ace, his twin is the company’s financial officer, his other brothers run locations elsewhere. Mike and Pat grew up together in Soda Springs, both working for Mike’s dad, Dan. Asked about rivalry between Soda and Bear Lake, neither recalled heated competitions. “There may have been,” Mike said, “because I was in track and field, not football or basketball, so Bear Lake probably won those while I was in high school.” Pat added that, “We’re all about loyalties to the Bear Lake area now!” In keeping with that perspective, Mike’s three sons and daughter are in Rich County schools while Pat’s oldest daughter is in college and his two younger daughters and son are attending Bear Lake County’s schools. Father Dan originally bought the KOA and Ace Hardware while Mike was in college. The previous owner stocked from Sam’s Club but Dan believed there was an opportunity along Bear Lake so his vision enlarged the grocery. He didn’t know camping, but he knew retail. Dan had written a plan on the wall in what is now Mike’s office that added onto the existing businesses. Twenty years later, Mike said, “In our April planning, we didn’t intend it to be this big, but we kept adding what we thought we would need and ended up with 40,000 sf.” Delays were expected with the pandemic but lumber was ordered with extra lead time so that everything arrived ahead of the time it was needed. “Usually, a plan this large takes a couple of years, but we’re doing it in thirteen months,” Mike revealed. Returning to employees, Pat said, “Warm personalities are a necessity and we can train a lot of things but not that. We want employees to enjoy working with us That converts to longevity and we want them ‘get to go to work, not have to go to work’.” The windows will soon be covered so the interior will be a surprise for the opening. They expect a “party atmosphere” and Mike’s dad, whose initial vision meant the family began investing in Bear Lake, will attend. To top it off for the sportsman, Ace will carry gear for water skiing, fishing, and hunting supplies and some of the “big stuff” such as kayaks and paddle boards. Goals for the new stores include getting the local shoppers to come in year round, not just during the high season. That attitude generated the on-line arrangement for orders and keeps management working to stock the items they learn are needed. Ann Bittner of Fish Haven ordered the greenhouse plants and “can’t wait for it to open!” Using local talent while working toward the May opening followed by a grand opening from June 10 through 12 means the pair are on the go almost continuously. There will be prizes, personalities and production and “pretty exciting stuff happening,” Mike grinned.