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2017 Young Retailer of the Year: Bobby Heuser

Over $2 Million in Sales

Heuser Ace Hardware, Bluffton, South Carolina


Bobby Heuser did not grow up in the home improvement industry, but after working in strategy consulting, investing and banking for many years, he was craving something more. Heuser and his parents, Bob and Renee, had always wanted to open a small business together, and a hardware store seemed like an ideal option. The family searched from the tip of Florida to the coast of Maine before landing on Bluffton, South Carolina, as the perfect location to open Heuser Ace Hardware in 2015.

The family modeled store décor around the customer experience, building high ceilings, installing glossy floors and splashing bright colors on the walls. Heuser wanted to bring a sense of “Main Street America” and nostalgia to the store, so he commissioned the developed of a mid-century-modern-style sign that was designed by a retired Disney Imagineer.

“My vision was to have a store whose appeal aligned with customer insights on how people like to shop, while generating a sense of nostalgia for the classic American hardware store,” Heuser says.

Heuser has built a staff of top-tier employees using an innovative screening process that requires applicants to go through a detailed online process. He’s proud to have two Ph.D.s on staff in horticulture, a former European oil company president, a master electrician and master plumber working at Heuser Ace Hardware. Additionally, Heuser developed a rigorous week-long employee training program to ensure that everyone working in his store is equipped to assist every customer.

Heuser listens to his customers and has brought in several lines of grills at their request to become “The Grilling Place” in Bluffton. In addition to general hardware categories, Heuser’s Ace Hardware also offers niche categories like birding and lawn and garden. Heuser also hosts events including Lawn and Garden Days to educate customers about plants, live goods and other products.

One of the most unique elements about Heuser’s store is The Bike Shop. The shop carries a full line of bicycles and does full-service and repair on bike. The Bike Shop’s nostalgic appeal draws customers of all demographics, and radiates an old-fashioned “general store” vibe.

As a result of Heuser’s efforts, the store was profitable within two months of being open and the company is now a staple the community can depend on.

When Hurricane Matthew hit, Heuser Ace Hardware was the last store in town to close. Heuser and his staff worked day and night to make sure the community would be stocked in preparation for the hurricane. Heuser worked with the local police department to secure the store as a designated disaster command center. The store is built to withstand hurricane-force winds.

Heuser and his family were recognized as 2016 Coolest Hardware Store from Ace Hardware’s executive leadership team. The company was also named a Pinnacle Ace Retailer in 2015 and 2016, which is the highest level of retail performance designated by the co-op. Heuser and his staff also earned the Patriotic Employer Award by the Department of Defense, 2015 and 2016 “Best of Bluffton” award and were named “Favorite Hardware Store” in 2016 by The Bluffton News.

Not only has Heuser grown a successful business, he’s also made an impact in his community. Under Heuser’s leadership, Heuser Ace Hardware actively promotes all fundraising activities to support the Ace Hardware Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. He also led his team to become the title sponsor of The Tiger Bass Race, which benefits Beaufort-Jasper Volunteers in Medicine. Additionally, he partners with the police department to collaborate on local events.

Watch Heuser’s video here.

About Hilary Welter

As marketing and research coordinator, it’s Hilary’s duty to keep retailers informed about NRHA products and services and to help coordinate industry research projects. Additionally, Hilary is the voice behind NRHA’s and Hardware Retailing’s social media accounts. She appreciates a good book, spicy food, well-made horror films, craft beer and exploring new places near and far.

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