Tipton Ace Hardware Celebrates One Year With New Owners
Writer / Megan Arszman Photographer / Jason Graves
When it was time for the Tipton Ace Hardware to transition to a new owner, the perfect person was already there and already passionate about the community. It was the original mission of the first owner of Ace Hardware to continue the small town, hometown spirit that has surrounded the store for many years.
Growing up in Tipton, Kent Clouser married his wife, Angela, and made their home more permanent. Because of this, Clouser has strong ties to the community and a large sense of hometown pride. This is why he chose to make the leap from manager to owner of the Ace Hardware.
“It was actually a natural extension to go from manager to take over as the owner,” Clouser says. “Bruce wanted to keep the business locally-owned, and that was important to me as well.”
The move from manager to owner wasn’t too big of a leap for Clouser. The former general contractor owned his own construction business before coming to work at Ace Hardware, and it’s that past life experience that he feels helps the store and its customers.
“Being able to apply some of my past life experiences to the business has helped our customers solve their problems, and that’s turned out to be a good fit for me,” he says. “I already knew the day-to-day operations of the store and had been coming here as a customer for years before I signed on to work.”
Power in Family
Clouser believes that the staying power of the Tipton Ace Hardware can be attributed to the people of Tipton and their passion for their hometown. His employees are all longtime residents of the county, and most have spent a good portion of their lives in the store. From high schoolers looking for their first job, to college students needing money between classes and older employees staying on for the family aspect, each person is important to the success of the store, as well as the growth of the community economy.
“The response (since I’ve been owner) has been really good,” Clouser adds. “We have people whom I’ve known all my life doing their shopping here, as well as new residents who are moving here from Indianapolis who are just now discovering what Ace Hardware really is.”
The Clouser family has been a big support in their patriarch’s new ownership venture. Justin and Jordan, Clouser’s sons, are attorneys in neighboring counties, and Clouser’s daughter-in-law, Caroline, helps with the company’s social media outreach. It’s something that Clouser and his wife of 40 years, Angela, share extreme pride.
“The whole family has pitched in, which means I have someone I can ask just about any question to within my family and get an objective opinion about for managing my business,” Clouser says.
Growing and Evolving
While the pandemic might have stunted some of the immediate growth Clouser was expecting to see with his new reign, it also opened a lot more doors for the Tipton business. “Like the saying goes, ‘disruption breeds opportunities,’” he says.
The Ace Hardware corporation expanded their offerings online, which encouraged Clouser to get his shop updated and plugged in for online shopping. The influx of people searching online for home improvement tools and ideas meant that AceHardware.com was a busy site. Many customers would purchase online and visit the Tipton store for the very first time during the pandemic as they picked up their orders.
“That introduced more people to Ace Hardware in Tipton than you would think,” Clouser says.
With 2020 in the rearview mirror, Clouser is looking at blue sky opportunities for his small-town business, as well as the community it serves.
“I would love to double the size of our store, which would give us a footprint to hit super status, inventory-wise,” he says. “I would like to be able to achieve that goal at some point so we can cover more of the needs of the people and what they’re looking for, so they don’t have to drive elsewhere to get it.”
This ultimate goal would help drive more customers to downtown Tipton, thus helping to grow the lure of shopping to the county seat, rather than sending residents to neighboring Kokomo or Noblesville. And, with that growth, comes the ability to support more of the community through local sports leagues, Tri-Central and Tipton schools and other smaller businesses.
“It’s easier for me to pull the trigger on sponsoring things around here because I’m from here, I’ve grown up here, and I’ve probably benefitted from that at some point in my life,” Clouser says. “I know all of these kids and their families, and I want to see them grow and succeed just like my business.”