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Building Better Communities with Retail Brand Partnerships

Kari Warberg Block

by Earthkind Founder Kari Warberg Block

Starting my business around my kitchen table as a North Dakota farm wife shaped my worldview. EarthKind’s flagship product, Fresh Cab Rodent Repellent, was invented because I personally knew the devastation of costly rodent damage in tractor cabs and farm equipment. As a mother and homeowner, I knew a safe and effective rodent repellent would be a game changer for millions of people. However, the popularity of Fresh Cab at a chain of urban hardware stores in Baltimore still caught me by surprise!

I had to find out why this store outsold all others. Our product costs more than its closest competitor, and local cash on hand was lower than the national average. Something special was happening here!

Visiting A Few Cool Hardware Stores, the chain of ACE Hardware stores operated in the Baltimore area by Gina Schaefer, opened my eyes. What I witnessed was a REAL community being built with the help of a small hardware store, and it was part of an evergreen model. After opening her first store in 2003, Gina knew there was a serious need for conventional materials. Baltimore and D.C. residents were upgrading and renovating old neighborhoods at a rapid pace. Despite the worry that lower-income urban areas wouldn’t support a niche store, the locations have experienced continued success.

Millennials are breathing new life into older neighborhoods while dealing with the day to day maintenance of Victorian-era homes and new construction. Practicality and sustainability are traits consumers are drawn to, and they are key components of women-owned businesses. This mix of demands makes A Few Cool Hardware Stores a perfect match for the Baltimore and DC area. 

Helping local residents create their own dreams for themselves turned out to help Gina and her husband create their own dream too. Customers across the metro area began asking the Schafer’s to open stores in their neighborhoods, and the Schafer’s were able to work with communities, opening nearly a dozen locations over the past decade. In fact, the Washington Post even took notice a few years back, with the writer stating: “The real hidden gem in the neighborhood is Logan Hardware. There is no better customer service in the District.”

 

Little things like a store cat (see Benjamin from Waverly Baltimore Ace below), or regular Ladies Night events have added up to create a sense of community that has grown incredibly strong.

Driving social change through business while helping beautify a community, they have created raving fans and a vibrant community of home improvement advocates. This little group of stores is a living, breathing representation of the home improvement industry’s most recognized slogan: Ace the Helpful Place.