Sometimes it takes a person years to figure out their purpose in life and the direction they are meant to go. For others, the path is clear when a passion blossoms from a very early age. Such was the case for Rick Miller, who began working in a hardware store when he was barely old enough to see over the counter. He was introduced to the hardware business through his grandfather’s hardware store located in downtown Louisville, which opened in 1978 and is still in operation. These days his dad and uncle run that store, and Miller and his brother Cody are the sole owners of three other hardware stores.
“It’s truly a family business situation that I was bought up in,” says Miller, 32, who opened his first store when he was 25 years old. “I’ve been doing this a long time, but it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s in my blood, working in this business.”
He chuckles then adds, “Plus, the NBA and NFL didn’t call me up, so…”
For many years there was a neighborhood hardware store in St. Matthews, but it closed in 2016. For the past five years there has been a void in the area for a friendly, customer-oriented store that makes customers feel heard and seen, not to mention right at home. Miller decided to fill that void by opening an Ace Hardware in St. Matthews in May of 2021.
“I love this location,” says Miller, whose family lives in the St. Matthews community. “It was somewhere we always wanted to be. I think it’s a great area.”
The public could not be more thrilled about Miller’s decision, as they appreciate having a neighborhood hardware store in their community that has exceptional customer service and a huge selection of products, including a wide selection of nuts and bolts.
“Almost every day we have people come in who are working on their vehicle or something similar and they can’t find a certain item anywhere, like a 10-millimeter, fine-thread bolt that’s a certain length,” he says. “They come in here and we have it. That’s one reason why we carry that large of a selection of all different things, because when people come in we want them to walk out with what they need, even if it’s something small that costs just 50 cents.”
Each day Miller, his brother, his manager Dave Phelps (a 40-year veteran in the field), or someone on their 10-member team can point customers in the right direction for whatever their need may be.
“We are truly a customer-service business,” Miller says. “That’s what people come to us for and that’s what keeps us in business. If you go to a big-box store you don’t get that same kind of personalized care.”
At Ace Hardware they offer small-engine repair, window repair and screen repair – basically anything you might need help with when it comes to your house. In addition, they specialize in certain independent brands that many big-box stores don’t carry. They also carry a larger stock of Weber grills than most big-box stores, as well as all of the parts and accessories that go with them.
Miller admits that running a small business can be challenging, simply because there is so much to do.
“You have to wear a lot of hats,” he says. “You’re a bookkeeper, an inventory specialist, an IT person. You pretty much have to do everything, but it’s worth it to be able to interact with the community every day.”
Customers love that they offer free delivery and assembly on grills.
“That’s a big plus for people because who wants to lug a grill into your backyard and have to put it together?” Miller says.
Being a neighborhood hardware store means not just providing reliable service at an affordable price, but also doing so with care and kindness. It also means delivering service in a convenient and timely manner.
“We had a guy come in recently with two chainsaws that needed to be repaired,” Miller says. “The local STIHL dealers are a month or two out, but we were able to get to it in two days. The customer was so grateful.”
In his free time Miller likes to play golf, grill out, cook and relax with his wife Brittany, whom he married last year. She’s an interventional radiologist who works in a cardiac catheterization lab. The couple has three little dogs, Buffy, Ellie and Phoebe.
Miller’s goal for the future is to get the hardware store up and running for the spring and summer seasons since they didn’t really get a chance to do that in 2021.
“Last year a lot of people didn’t know we were open yet and by the time they did it was already fall, so we are looking forward to having a good solid lawn and garden season this year,” says Miller, whose long-term goals include running his dad’s store and maybe another one at a different location. But that’s down the line.
Although they opened in the midst of a global pandemic, Miller counts himself as blessed because they were never forced to close, due to the necessity of the industry. They were careful to follow all of the CDC guidelines and kept their doors safely open.
“We were actually very busy all during the pandemic,” Miller says. “We sold a lot of everything. Everyone was sitting at home staring at that light fixture they’d been wanting to change for a year or more and they were in a situation where they had the time on their hands to do something about it.”
People painted their walls. They built decks and porches. They changed up light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, mirrors and faucets. They spruced up their landscaping. In short, DIY projects hit an all-time high. Through it all, area customers turned to Miller and his team for guidance, suggestions and support. They appreciated him, and the feeling is mutual.
“Everyone seems happy that we’re here,” Miller says. “When I think about it, I think that’s pretty cool and pretty rewarding that people want us here because we’re certainly happy to be here.”
Ace Hardware is located at 4224 Shelbyville Road in Louisville. For more information, call 502-294-7600.