Bjorkmans: Coming Up Aces
Bjorkman’s Ace Hardware, situated on Crystal Lake Road, south of downtown McHenry, started as a relatively small family enterprise that was created shortly after World War II.
Brothers Craig and Steve Bjorkman, the third generation of Bjorkmans to bring the hardware store experience to McHenry County, do all the right things to provide genuine customer service.
The evolution of big box stores in the 1990s — which brought massive square footage and untold thousands of yards of aisles and inventory — created a level of frustration for the Bjorkmans. But they were ready and able to combat and resolve that competition.
In 1964, the original 1,500-square-foot store was located on Riverside Drive, McHenry. Twenty-one years ago it was relocated to its current location. The store took on additions and enhancements to create what is now recognized as one of the top Ace Hardware facilities in the country.
The 2009 Ace annual report features the Bjorkman brothers on the cover, as well as information inside detailing the remarkable success that they have had in fulfilling the commitments their grandfather and father put in place.
The Ace Advantage
Customers come back time and again to Bjorkman’s because they know they can always find clean aisles, incredible inventory, special year-round sales and the ease of finding a solution to their hardware needs.
This is due to an extraordinarily helpful and informed Bjorkman’s Ace Hardware team. The competitive aspect of the big boxes situated in and around McHenry County has not affected their ability to do well.
Carrying brand-name products in addition to a massive inventory of specialty products is what their customers are looking for. Even STIHL — a high-quality lawn and garden equipment manufacturer — has found a home among independent dealers such as Bjorkman’s Ace Hardware.
The 27,000-square foot facility — 35,000 if you include the outdoor green goods and storage areas — supports the needs of customers from all over the region. Bjorkman’s has more than 300 power tools on display at all times; this is unsurpassed by any store in northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin.
The brothers have developed niche markets, including reconditioning power tools and offering nails in bulk.
The reason is simple: they have responded to their customers’ needs. Customers look for service, not just equipment variety. “One of the critical points to remember is that we were born and raised in McHenry,” Craig Bjorkman said. “Every day we are in touch with so many people that we have come to know and have grown up with as friends. These are folks that we went to grade school with, that own businesses in the community. We have been here all of our lives, as have most of our customers, and that is very special.”
Long-term employees are another asset that customers genuinely like. Employees get to know their customers and even refer to them by their first names. The 55 Ace employees make up a cohesive team that is dedicated to customer service. The team is often treated to lunches and barbecues, which fosters a fun and exciting workplace.
It’s the little things that make the Bjorkman’s hometown Ace Hardware store special. The windows are washed every day, shelves are cleaned regularly, and employees find answers to their customers’ questions if they don’t have them.
A Tradition Continues
Notwithstanding the slowdown in the economy the Bjorkman’s tradition continues. The economic challenges meant a slowdown in commercial work and residential development, but the opportunities were still there to continue to ask questions, develop and fill needs and continue as McHenry County’s “place with the helpful hardware folks.”
Ace Hardware’s new national promotional slogan, “Get in, get help and get on with your life,” was in practice at Bjorkman’s Ace Hardware in McHenry County years ago.
While it’s new for the national organization, this concept has been right at home in McHenry County for years. n
>> Bjorkmans Ace Hardware is located at 4520 W. Crystal Lake Rd. in McHenry. For more, call 815-385-3660 or visit www.acehardware.com.