Giovanni Grasso and his family, Angelo and Erika, run seven Ace Hardware locations in the Capital District, including a newly opened store at the intersection of Fuller Road and Central Avenue. While operating under the ACE Hardware franchise, their locations are called Hatchet Hardware and can be found in Troy, Brunswick, Waterford, Palatine Bridge, Niskayuna, and Wynantskill.
Q: Where did you get the name “Hatchet” from and what is the significance?
A: We got the name “Hatchet” from the 1980s novel “Hatchet.” The story is about a teenage son of divorced parents. One summer, the boy’s mother, located in New York, sent the boy to see his father in Canada. Before the plane ride, the mother gifted her son a hatchet. Unfortunately, the pilot suffered a heart attack during the plane ride and died. The plane crashed into a lake, and the boy had to survive the elements with nothing but a hatchet. In being forced to survive in a forest with just a hatchet, the boy developed many skills along the way to eventually be rescued. With so much competition and elements needed to overcome for a business to survive these times, the hatchet represents our intention to survive the uncontrollable while breaking the average hardware store’s mold by thinking outside the box and being bold.
Q: There are a number of smaller hardware stores opening up in locations like Fuller Road and Central Avenue. What is the allure of the smaller stores compared to a big box store like the Lowe’s that is located not far away?
A: Big box stores often cannot consistently provide quality customer service compared to smaller stores. Attention to the customer and understanding their needs is essential to help find what they are looking for and what would work best for them. There is much more chance of one-on-one personal service at a smaller store. Our employees will be able to tell you why “product A” sounds like a better option than “product B” while also giving you tips on how to use the product.
Q: You and your family have been in the hardware business for more than 30 years — following in your father’s footsteps when he made a jump from being a locksmith to hardware in 1979. How has it changed over the years?
A: My brother and I were lucky because our father allowed us to spend so much time in his Brooklyn hardware store while growing up, so we got an early sense of what it means to serve a customer, and we got a great understanding of what it took to run a hardware store. While many basic products are similar today, how business is conducted has drastically changed. Technology in the last 30 years has been a huge game changer. Online ordering, in-store pick-up, and numerous payment options are just some things that have transformed our industry and the entire retail business world. Your competition is only a few clicks and seconds away now. That was not the case thirty years ago, so now you have to think about having the edge on any competition in ways that would never have been thought about decades ago.
Q: Your family is expanding its business on the heels of a global pandemic and during difficult economic times. What advice do you have for someone considering the same?
A: This is a very tough time for so many. Our only advice is to be ready for a physical, mental, and emotional roller coaster. Have backup plans for your backup plans.
Q: What is the trick to finding reliable people with a knowledge of hardware to work your stores?
A: We are fortunate to have many knowledgeable store associates across all of our Hatchet Hardware locations. I don’t think there is a specific trick to finding reliable people with knowledge of hardware to work with us. We simply try to find hard-working individuals who are willing and eager to learn and train them on the products we sell at our stores. Our store managers have done an excellent job training and helping to develop reliable and knowledgeable staff, and we are always looking for more talent. Anyone with interest in working at Hatchet Hardware can contact us at [email protected]
If you would like to see someone featured in Five Questions, contact Jim Franco at [email protected] or 518-878-1000.