BROOKINGS – Volga was ready for a new hardware store. That was the decision reached by co-owners and partners Brent Palmer and Jeff Olson. So they built one – at 114 E. Highway 14.
The 11,000-square-foot Ace Hardware store, built from the ground up, opened on Jan. 3.
This is Palmer’s first Ace store; Olson also owns Ace stores in Beresford and Rock Rapids, Iowa. In addition to being a co-owner and partner, Palmer will manage the Volga store on a day-to-day basis. All the stores are part of the Ace Hardware corporate chain.
“They base your planogram on the size of your store, the size of your communities,” Palmer explained, noting the role of Ace corporate. “They have different levels. We’re kind of considered a middle-level store.
“Once they set what kind of store you’re going to be, they start sending you everything that you need for that size of store. Everything comes from them. We don’t order anything. It all comes from them.
“They send people in. They decide how much shelving you’re going to need; how it’s going to be built; and what product is going to be on it. It’s all decided by corporate.”
Also considered in the equation is the size of each department: “Paint, for example: we’ll have a 28-foot set of paints,” Palmer said. “The bigger stores will have 48 feet. We should have every department each Ace has, but it’s a designated size based on your plan.”
The store has four fulltime employees and four part-time employees.
It’s open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Farmers, in-town people
In addition to the Ace products line, the Volga store will also stock the “top lines in the nation,” Palmer noted. That includes Milwaukee power tools and DeWalt power tools. Featured paints are Benjamin Moore and Magnolia Home, “an exclusive line that we carry.”
As to the geographic area from which Ace will draw its customers, Palmer explained, “Volga is a smaller town, even though it’s next to Brookings, which is a much larger town. (Volga) is a very rural-feeling community, from what I’m getting. I’ve been here several months now. I think our base business is going to be surrounding community farmers. In-town people are just really excited to have a hardware store here, so they don’t have to make the trip to Brookings and spend longer than they want to for a one-item or two-item deal.
“We’re convenience for a lot of people; we’re closer. The reaction I’m getting from people is that they like dealing with a smaller type of business than with a box store. It is more of a homey feel here,” Palmer said.
“We try to pride ourselves. I really push my employees to help our customers from the beginning to the end of the sale. We don’t just want to point them to an aisle and say, ‘It’s over there,’ and walk away. We take them there and find the product with them – unless they say, ‘No, I’ve got it; I’m good.’ Then we go back to what we’re doing. The customer comes first, for sure.”
Skin in the game
Why the decision to build a store in Volga? Both Palmer and Olson own cabins on Lake Poinsett. As they drove on Highway 14 through Volga, they “commented to each other about how busy this road is.”
Palmer asked Olson if he had ever considered opening a third Ace Hardware store. He had. But where?
The partners drove around the area, met with Volga city officials, took some tours, and “it just came to fruition about a little over a year ago.”
Olson asked Palmer, who was working in Watertown at the time, if he’d like to manage the store. He liked the “hometown feel of helping customers” and said he would.
“The more we talked, I ended up being half-owner of the land, the building and the business,” Palmer explained. “I wanted to be part of all this and have some skin in the game.”
Further noting the decision to build the store in Volga, he pointed to the highway’s traffic and the city’s growth and housing developments going in.
“We thought there was a need for it here. The city is progressive in what it’s doing. They’re next to Brookings, but they’re their own entity. For sure. And they’re pretty proud of that,” Palmer said.
The store has a security system with 19 cameras with two-fold purpose: “One, obviously you can keep an eye on things.” Additionally, he can direct an employee “to go an aisle if a customer seems to need some help.”
By way of background, Palmer is originally from Beresford, where he lived and worked for about 42 years. He now lives at Lake Poinsett in a house he built there a few years ago.
He’s a 1990 graduate of the University of South Dakota, where he earned a degree in mass communications. He’s worked in sales “with a few different companies.”
A recent first-time, drop-in customer at the Volga store was Steve Carlson, who lives in Arlington and works part-time at Sioux Valley School.
“I was on my way to Brookings. I needed some bird seed, and they’ve got an excellent supply back there. I’m all set. My squirrels and birds will be happy when I get home,” Carlson said.
And his impression of the new store: “I think it’s awesome. It looks like it’s well set up and well stocked. It’s all lit up and there’s room in the aisles. I’ll definitely be back again.”
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]