Canton Ace Hardware is a family-owned business, serving the Canton community for 7 years. We chatted with Marketing Manager, Courtney Belew, to learn more.
How long has Canton Ace been here? What is your role, and how long have you been with Canton Ace?
It’s hard to believe how fast time flies, but it’s already been 7 years since we opened Canton Ace Hardware in September 2012. My official title is “marketing manager” but I like to consider myself as responsible for everything that faces the customer- which includes events, graphic design, signage, sales execution, advertising, community engagement, press relations, and philanthropy. Like the rest of our back office team, I started as a sales associate 8 years ago at our Waverly location and moved into the marketing position in 2012, right around the same time this store opened.
The store is woman-owned; can you tell us a little bit about the owner?
Our owner Gina Schaefer is a pioneer in the retail industry. She opened her first store in 2003 in DC where she saw an opportunity to help rebuild the community and provide the supplies and resources they desperately needed to improve that retail corridor. 16 years later and we’ve expanded to 3 Baltimore locations (11 total in the DC/Baltimore metro areas), all owned by Gina Schaefer with her husband and the company’s CFO, Marc Friedman. She served a full 9-yr term on the Ace Hardware Corporate board and continues to serve on a number of nonprofit boards, including House of Ruth DC, CCA Global Partners, and Institute for Local Self Reliance.
Why did she pick Canton as a location?
We love the Can Company complex and when the warehouse space that is now our hardware store came onto the market, it was too good of a deal and location to pass up. We want to touch as many people in our community as possible, and Canton seemed like a perfect addition to our group of three Baltimore based locations.
For anyone who doesn’t know, what do you sell?
We like to say our unofficial slogan is “we’re more than just hardware”. While we offer the departments and products customers would come to expect of a hardware store such as tools, plumbing supplies, and hardware, we pride ourselves in our unique assortment of housewares, locally made products, greeting cards, plants (both indoors and outdoors!), pottery, pet supplies, and of course, a vast selection of giftable items such as novelty socks, toys, Maryland-themed products, candles and more. We also carry a number of premium brands like Yeti, Ring, and Nest.
What are some go-to products or home repair items people need for June?
We all know the woes of summer energy bills, and we’re here to help you cut back on some of those costs with energy-saving weather stripping, programmable thermostats, and new filters for your HVAC units. We know safety is of the utmost importance to our Canton neighbors, so we’ve recently brought in some new motion-sensor lights, some of which have a camera built-in and are solar powered or battery powered for easy installation. And of course, no Canton neighbor would go the entire summer without working on their beautiful stoop and rooftop gardens! Given our size, we have a fairly robust selection of plants, some really beautiful pottery, and plenty of soil for you to shop- including some locally made brands like Leafgro and Organic Mechanics.
Because you are a big supporter of the CCA and Light Night Canton, we know how much Canton Ace contributes to our neighborhood. Can you share with our readers some of the ways you give back?
We have a number of ways we get involved in the neighborhood- popping popcorn for the kids at St. Casimir’s during their annual Parish Festival, handwriting responses for the St. Casimir’s students during our annual “Letters to Santa” program (I myself have dressed up as the elf and delivered the letters the last 4 years), pop-ups in front of the store with local nonprofits, donating raffle or auction prizes for local events, hosting round-up campaigns and World’s Finest chocolate bar fundraisers for local nonprofits- the list goes on, and we’re always looking for new opportunities to show our support! We also periodically offer at-cost deals on essentials like motion-sensor lights or trash pick-up supplies to encourage neighborhood-wide improvements. I feel so humbled to be a part of the Canton community and we certainly don’t take it for granted. This store would not exist without our customers; we know you have a choice when you shop, and we’re so glad you choose to support your locally owned and operated Ace Hardware!
What do you like best about being a part of the Canton community?
By far my favorite thing about Canton is the people and sense of community, and we love that you all enjoy being a part of it as much as we do. We love bringing everyone together for our annual events like our Ladies’ Night in the fall, Garden Party in the spring, and Sidewalk Sale in the summer. These events illicit such a positive response, and we love that it’s an opportunity for us to get to know our neighbors and show our appreciation.
What else would you like people to know?
Most people don’t know Ace is a co-op, not a chain or a franchise, which means we are a 100% locally owned and operated store. Being a part of the Ace co-op allows us to provide trusted products to our customers, while our status as a member of the co-op affords us the opportunity to customize each of our three Baltimore locations (Canton, Waverly, and Federal Hill) to the specific needs of those neighborhoods. It’s also one of the big reasons we’re able to be so involved in our neighborhoods and make a mark in our communities. That said, if you don’t see a product you need, please let us know and we’ll either get it into our stores for you, or find another business nearby who can!
How can someone reach you?
I love meeting our neighbors—if you don’t see me loitering around the plant department fawning over the plants or offering my personal advice on gardening, feel free to visit me at my office at Canton Ace, or send an email to me directly at Courtney@charmcityacehardware.com!
Oh, and before we go… How is Stanley? (Can you say who he is and how he came to live at Canton Ace please. Was he a rescue?)
It goes without saying we LOVE our little man Stan! Stanley came to us in 2013 from Animal Allies Rescue Foundation, a local nonprofit rescue organization that also placed our other two store cats, Decker the Federal Hill Ace Cat and Benjamin the Waverly Ace Cat. Our cats are the stars of our stores and we’re so glad all three bring our customers such joy. Stanley is such a wonderful member of our team, though we should probably address his narcoleptic tendencies while he’s on the clock. Don’t forget to check out his Facebook page for regular Stan updates!