Wilson serves as manager of the store at 111 Whittlesey Ave. She has worked there since its opening in May 2013 but had experience in hardware prior to that, including as an employee at Willard’s Ace Hardware.
I recently observed Wilson in action as I played the role of a hardware store employee.
“She takes me to school everyday,” said Andrew Smith, Wilson’s assistant manager, explaining how he still learns a lot from her.
I didn’t hear a question Wilson couldn’t answer. Most questions were related to electrical or plumbing parts or projects. We were at a desk in the middle of the store, so we had a good view of what was going on in other parts of the store.
As I wore an Ace Hardware vest, a few customers asked me where something was or if we carried a certain product. I felt completely lost, but my fellow employees for the day came to my rescue.
Each employee had an earpiece in and a microphone clipped to his or her shirt. This way, employees were better able to work as a team. Although I wasn’t in the loop, I thought that was a cool feature.
Several of the employees have worked there only for a few months, but seem to know the specific products in each aisle. There were so many aisles to memorize! By the end of my shift, I probably could tell you where a few items were but I was nowhere near ready to answer questions on the phone or direct everyone where they needed to go.
The employees recognized many customers, especially the regulars — one of whom realized I was a new face in the store.
Wilson showed interest in those who came in, teasing some and telling others she was glad to see them, since it had been a while. No matter who it was, Wilson was able to find or order exactly what was needed and answer each question.
Those in the store, both employees and customers, seemed to have a good relationship.
Greg and Lisa Bleile own the store and are very hands on, helping customers and employees. I thought that was admirable and gave the store a more personal hometown feel.
Almost anyone who came in was welcomed and asked, “Do you need help finding anything?”
Some knew exactly what they needed and exactly where to go.
Others thought they knew what they were doing and were too stubborn to ask for help at first, but eventually needed and accepted assistance.
Then, there were people who came in completely clueless — the category I would fall into on a regular day.
When no one needed assistance, we kept busy with projects such as updating labels of items going on sale and stocking. Items that do not fit on the shelves are put in boxes on the very top shelf. “Down stocking” is refilling spots where items have been sold.
One employee said her favorite part of the job is mixing the paints. I didn’t get to try that, but I did take a look at all the paints. I honestly don’t know what I would say if someone asked me to pick out a paint for them, since I can barely make my own color choices.
I didn’t realize Ace Hardware has a UPS package label maker. Each package gets weighed, measured and labeled, and then taken to the back for UPS pickup.
As expected, managers have more responsibilities to handle. They open and close the store, make judgement calls and oversee the other employees, making sure everyone is staying busy. Wilson continued to check incoming emails and orders, update inventory and help anyone who came into the store. She was skilled at answering questions on the phone too.
A common request at the store was for a key to be copied. The employees were excited about having a new machine to handle this. It was simpler than I expected, but still fascinating.
I personally didn’t have to deal with any angry patrons, but Wilson helped a man who became irate about a product not being in the store.
This didn’t surprise me too much; I know working in customer service puts you in contact with all sorts of people and attitudes. However, the majority of those who came in appeared to be friendly and polite.
Some were very thankful and made us employees feel as if we did more than just find a hardware product.
I definitely felt incompetent in that role and realized I have a lot to learn about hardware. But I was very impressed with the store, employees and owners. I had a great time and will be back when I decide to take on a hardware project or need a product the store offers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Mad about…” series involves day-in-the-life stories about local workers. Reflector Correspondent Madeline Roche spends time doing their jobs and then tells readers what it's like. If you would like your business to be featured, call 419-668-3771 or email email@example.com.
Position: Ace Hardware employee/manager
Qualifications: Must be 16 or older. A flexible schedule and willingness to learn and work are also important. To be a manager, you must have extensive knowledge of the store and products and be able to work with sometimes difficult customers and people.
Pay: $8.55 to $18 per hour, depending on position