Photographer / Belinda Russell
Since 1978 White’s Ace Hardware has been serving Central Indiana’s tool, hardware, lawn and garden needs, and owner Steve White says his staff’s focus on customer service and ongoing efforts to remain a one-stop shop for locals, has contributed to his 40-plus years of success in the industry.
“We love the customer interaction, and we’ve tried to be a shopping destination for people here,” says White, who worked in computer technology before venturing into the hardware field in the late 1970s. “It’s also fun to try out new products, which you can’t do in many other industries. We recently got into indoor plants, and it’s doing very well. It’s fun because there are always new opportunities and things you can sell.”
White, who currently runs Geist and Carmel Ace Hardware locations with his wife Sharon, owned two locations in Carmel and Brownsburg prior to opening his Geist store in 1988, and he says the decision to expand into the northeast side of Indy and open a third store was a no-brainer back then, given the development starting to happen in the area.
“We knew the market out in Geist was growing, and we had a commercial broker drive us around to check it out,” White recalls. “It’s funny looking back because it was just a bunch of cornfields, but he showed us a map of the approved subdivisions that were going in and we said, ‘We’re in.’”
After seven years on Fox Road, White relocated the Geist Store to its current location on 79th Street in 1995, the year White’s son Chris joined the company after working there through high school. With Chris handling day-to-day operations, White has been able to maintain a sizable customer base at his two current locations despite the proliferation of big-box stores and online retailers through the years.
“We’ve always tried to broaden our inventories, and offer a lot of different product lines like lawn and garden,” White says. “After we tried doing lawn and garden at our Carmel location and had success, that’s when we moved our Geist location and built our garden center there. That was a big move for us and it’s done well.”
From tools, hardware and power equipment to painting supplies to lawn and garden gear, there’s not much you won’t find at White’s to complete most any indoor or outdoor project. Geist Store Manager Randy Mann, an Indy native and Avon High School grad who joined the White’s team back in 1985, says the Geist location’s lawn and garden center has become a local fixture for outdoor enthusiasts.
“The thing that I’d say separates us is our lawn and garden section, which is a huge part of our business,” he says. “We have seasonal people trained in plants and flowers who work in the garden center and can help with questions. We’re kind of different than other stores in that they have their Black Friday, but April and May are our two biggest months when people start to get outside. We sell a ton of grills too.”
Mann says the rise in do-it-yourself projects and YouTube instructional videos has ultimately helped business due to the increase in customers taking on home and garden tasks themselves rather than hiring professionals to get the job done.
“We get a lot of people who say they watched a how-to video online and need certain things to finish their project,” Mann says. “We try to help them out as best we can.”
In the age of online shopping and big-box-store convenience, Mann says it’s the focus he and his staff have kept on customer service and one-on-one attention that has allowed White’s to continue operating successfully in Central Indiana.
“We get a lot of the same customers, some of them almost every day,” he says. “We just did a survey over the winter both in the store and by phone, and pretty much everybody said they like the idea that we’re here as a locally-owned store. I think people like the personal service that you might not get at a bigger store.”
White’s Ace Hardware and Garden Center at Geist is located at 10941 East 79th Street in Indianapolis. Call 317-823-0960 or visit whitesacehardware.com for more info.