Bob and Flo Swanson opened a Gambles Hardware store on Main Street in Webster, WI, in 1967. In the mid-1980s, the store became an Ace Hardware franchise. Bob and Flo retired in the early 1990s and sold the hardware business to Bruce and Lois Rypkema. The Rypkemas ran the store successfully for the next nine years, nearly tripling annual sales during that period.
We (Stefan and Deb Benson) purchased the business in 2002, returning to our hometown area (from the Twin Cities) to raise our family. And with an eye toward expansion that would enable growth by offering a broader inventory, plus more comprehensive repair services and rental equipment. Over time, we added a building and expanded the main retail space. Webster Ace Hardware continues to grow every year, reinvesting aggressively to bring high-quality, national brand products and a focus on customer service. Bringing Benjamin Moore to our market in 2020 provides another premier national brand to our paint selection.
An opportunity to provide the Frederic community with the same quality and service came in 2015 with our purchase of the previous sporting goods store located south of downtown on Wis. Hwy. 35. Our son, Zac, was involved in every aspect of opening the new Benson Ace Hardware, and as Benson Ace general manager, promoted the addition of the Stihl outdoor power equipment and Cub Cadet mowers and lawn tractors. We purchased the property next door in 2017 to add more equipment space and a shop/rental area.
The success of the power equipment department in Frederic paved the way for both stores to offer residential and commercial equipment, including Bad Boy zero turn mowers and Intimidator 4x4 utility vehicles (UTVs). By 2020, after two years selling the relatively new Arkansas-based UTV brand in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Zac grew the business to the Intimidator’s #2 dealership.
A 2019 addition to the Webster shop/rental building, particularly the addition of floor jacks in both locations, improved the capacity to service power equipment. The expanded workspace enables Benson Ace to offer authorized warranty work for a wide range of small-engine product brands, along with UTV service and repair.
In a constantly changing marketplace, we value our identity as a hometown business. In 2019, we updated our own brand to include the family name as a proud, loyal neighbor. We established the Benson Ace Scholarships program to support area high school students pursuing education and careers in the trades. And we are proud to participate in and support a wide range of community-based services, non-profit organizations, and local celebrations.
While our Frederic and Webster stores carry similar products, the customers who visit us at each location have very specific needs. We happily use every day to listen to customers, including many loyal vacation visitors and recreational property owners. Benson Ace is The Helpful Place!