Progress: It’s double the family fun at Lakes Ace Hardware
“We’re really lucky, our customers have been great,” said Erika Sailer, co-owner at Lakes Ace Hardware. “Between businesses and regular customers, it’s nice to be a part of the downtown community.”
Editor's Note: The following originally appeared in the 2023 Perham Progress magazine, which was included as a free insert in a February 2023 issue of the Focus. Read the magazine in its entirety HERE online.
Subscribe to the Perham Focus
to receive more great community-focused articles, magazines and local news content from across the family of Forum Communications Company-owned newspapers.
When it comes to family ownership of a small business, they doubled down at Lakes Ace Hardware in Perham. For the last two years it has been owned by two Perham families – Mark and Erika Sailer and Bill and Mallory Stoderl.
They bought the downtown hardware store on Jan. 1, 2021, after it had been owned for a number of years by Katie and Nick Murdock, who is now Perham’s economic development director.
In an unusual twist, Erika and Mallory have been running the hardware store on a daily basis, with some help from Mark and Bill when they can spare time from their day jobs. Mark works at KLN Family Brands and Bill works at Perham Health.
“We’re really enjoying it. Business is going well,” Erika said. “We had to learn a lot ,” she added. “It takes a while.”
It’s a great help that store manager Matt Bleichner, who has been there 17 years, has stayed on at Ace Hardware.There are also four part-time staffers at the store.
“Our employees have been great – we’ve been really lucky with our employees sticking around,” Erika said.
The two families rotate working at the hardware store on Sundays, and the rest of the time everybody sort of plays to their strengths.
“We (Erika and Mallory) kind of each have separate duties we focus on, and our husbands are also involved in finance and maintenance,” Erika said.
Both couples have school-age children: The Sailer children are Quinn and Wesley and the Stoderl children are Grace, Jack and Stella. So everybody stays pretty busy, at home and at work.
“Problem solvers are what you need to be here,” Erika said. “People come in with issues and you help solve them.”
The idea to buy the hardware store didn’t come out of the blue: Mark Sailer and Bill Stoderl worked at the store for about six years in high school and college, back when Nick Murdock’s parents Mark and Pat Murdock owned the store about 17 years ago, Mark Sailer said in an earlier story.
“We always loved the place, enjoyed the hardware business and the small hometown store,” BIll Stoderl said. “It just kind of dawned on us that we loved working here, they were our favorite jobs that we ever had. We should approach Nick and see if it’s something that would come to fruition.”
The Murdocks moved the Coast to Coast Hardware store to the current location of the hardware store over 25 years ago, Mark Sailer said earlier. The store became a True Value store before becoming an Ace Hardware under their ownership. The building itself is more than 100 years old, Erika said.
“We’re a small store, so we have to focus basically on helping every customer that comes in,” Erika said. “That’s kind of the Ace motto – the helpful hardware folks.”
That means they don’t have any problem at all with Ace corporate initiatives like selling and assembling barbeque grills for customers, Erika said. “Mallory and I do a lot of it,” she said. “Mostly in the summertime, but we just did one last week,” she said.
In fact, grills and grill accessories, including tools and spices, are now some of the most popular items at the store, Erika said.
Another popular part of the store is the paint department, she said, which has paint-mixing and informal color advice available.
Lakes Ace Hardware is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the store offers a full line of products for hardware needs. Here's a link to their website .
“We’re really lucky, our customers have been great,” Erika said. “Between businesses and regular customers, it’s nice to be a part of the downtown community.”