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Do it Best, United Merger Approved by Shareholders

On April 5, United Hardware shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favor of the previously announced merger with Do it Best. According to the co-ops, the merger will enhance efficiency, add buying power and drive store growth for previous United Hardware dealers and Do it Best members alike. By leveraging organizational strengths and resources, the merger will provide value to members and foster their continued success.

“We’re thrilled to announce our union with United Hardware,” says Do it Best president and CEO Dan Starr. “This partnership represents our deep-seated belief in the co-op model and our dedication to drive member growth in an increasingly competitive market.”

United Hardware president and CEO Chad Ruth echoed Starr’s sentiments.

“This is a significant milestone in our history, and we’re confident that this merger will continue to support the United Hardware dealers at the level of service they expect,” Ruth says. “The two co-ops share a commitment to supporting independent home improvement retailers, and together, we can amplify our impact for member-owners and customers.”

Both United Hardware and Do it Best leadership teams are dedicated to ensuring a seamless transition for customers without disruption to their service. All United Hardware store locations will maintain their independent brand identities, allowing them to retain their autonomy and individuality within the co-operative framework. In addition to the companies’ shared vision, they boast rich histories dating back to 1945.

In 1945, businessman E.J. “Gene” Koblas acquired an interest in the United Hardware Distributing Co. With an entrepreneurial spirit, Koblas immediately assembled a coalition of 100 furniture stores under the banner of the United Furniture Distributing Co. Four years later, this strategic alliance led to the formation of United Hardware & Furniture Co. However, in 1953, Koblas decided to divest the furniture division, catalyzing a new era of focus and growth in the hardware sector. Then in 1957, retailers purchased a controlling interest in the hardware division and formed United Hardware Distributing Co., which launched the Hardware Hank brand. Today, United Hardware earns annual sales of nearly $200 million.

Founded in 1945, Arnold Gerberding pioneered the cooperative model in Fort Wayne with Hardware Wholesalers Inc. (HWI). His visionary approach enabled HWI members to benefit from better volume pricing through collective purchasing, which was backed by investments from 100 independent business owners across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. This fostered a tight-knit community of independent hardware stores, each serving as both members and sole shareholders. In 1948, HWI established its first warehouse facility, followed by the implementation of a private truck delivery system in 1955. In 1998, HWI merged with Our Own Hardware, a regional co-op based in Minnesota, leading to the rebranding of HWI as Do it Best. Today, Do it Best boasts annual sales approaching $5 billion.

The merger will positively impact local markets, including Millbank, South Dakota, where the United Hardware warehouse is located, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Do it Best is headquartered.

“Our unwavering commitment to providing exceptional service, quality products and a comprehensive range of programs will help our members thrive in their communities,” says Starr. “We’re energized by the economic prospects this merger brings to local communities, including Fort Wayne, Millbank and beyond. There’s no limit to what we can accomplish with our combined strengths and resources.”

About Melanie Moul

Melanie is the communications and content manager for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She joined the NHPA team in 2016 as an editor for Hardware Retailing and now helps lead the communications team to deliver relevant, timely content to the industry.

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