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Ace’s Retail Support Center marks 20th anniversary

(BCR photo/Lyle Ganther)
Rick Whitson (left) talks with Roger and Allen Gustafson at last Friday's open house marking the 20th anniversary of Ace Hardware's Retail Support Center in Princeton. The Gustafsons own the Ace Hardware store in Princeton.

PRINCETON — Ace Hardware’s Retail Support Center in Princeton marked its 20th anniversary Friday with tours of the location which first opened for business in 1993.

Representatives of some of the 540 Ace stores that receive merchandise from the center toured the facility during the day, while team members took their family members through the facility during an open house later in the day.

Rick Whitson, the former manager of the retail support center when it opened, spoke briefly as did John Venhuisen, president/CEO of Ace.

Whitson said the construction and opening of the facility tested the mettle and courage of the team members, and he wasn’t sure if the center would have been located in Princeton without the assistance of former Princeton Mayor Richard Welte.

Whitson, who is currently vice president of retail support for Ace Hardware, said there were two significant labor unrest times during the construction of the center and two very aggressive union campaigns of team members during his 14-year tenure as manager of the facility.

Jim Hagrelius is the current Princeton Retail Support Center manager.

The Princeton Retail Support Center is one of 14 locations making up Ace Hardware’s domestic distribution network. The company also has distribution centers in Panama, Dubai and China.

The Princeton building is more than 1 million square feet in size, and contains 125 semi-trailer loading/unloading dock doors. More than 450 people are employed at the center providing merchandise to 540 Ace stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Kentucky and Nebraska.

The warehouse contains enough concrete for 15 miles of four-lane interstate highway and more than 22 football fields would fit inside the warehouse. The building is 886 feet wide; 1,242 feet long and 36 feet high.

The center is one of the largest distribution centers in the home improvement industry and contains an average of $60 million in inventory. The center has 80,000 different items of merchandise stored there.

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