MARICOPA — At this point, it comes as no surprise that the Ace Hardware store on 21542 N. John Wayne Parkway is a community favorite. After all, the hardware store is a three-time winner of the Business of the Year award from the City of Maricopa Chamber of Commerce and a supporter of many local organizations.
This year, the business won the Retailer of the Year award, presented by the Arizona Retailers Association, signifying it as the best in Legislative District 11. The nomination came from state Sen. Vince Leach, who represents the district.
The prize was a shock to owner Mike Richey, who has operated the store since 2010.
“This award was a surprise — I didn’t even know the award existed actually,” Richey said. “I know Vince Leach, he’s a great representative for our area, and I also know the person that leads the Arizona Retailers Association. … To be able to have both of those entities come into play to offer an award like this is really gratifying for us. I see it as kind of a confirmation for the work that we put into, not only the community, but the customer service inside the store as well.”
Leach was more than happy to nominate the business and congratulated Maricopa Ace Hardware for its big win.
“I am thrilled that Maricopa Ace Hardware is the winner of this award,” Leach said in a press release. “It takes a lot of hard work and smart decisions to run a successful small business. Mike Richey does an outstanding job with Maricopa Ace Hardware. It is a strong asset to Maricopa and all of LD 11.”
The store was also nominated for the Business of the Year award last year by Phoenix Children’s Hospital, a member of Children’s Miracle Network for their donations totaling nearly $43,000 — ranking as the ninth store in the nation for donations to the organization. Donations to the network are given to local hospitals, so the money Richey and his team collect funnels directly into Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
About one child from Maricopa arrives at Phoenix Children’s for medical care every day, with an average of 400 kids every year, according to Richey.
Not stopping there, Richey and his wife Jacquie are invited to attend yet another awards ceremony from Phoenix Children’s Hospital this week, where the regional Ace Hardware stores of Phoenix area will be recognized for their contributions as a whole to the network.
Ace donates to the network in a lot of different ways throughout the year, including providing some of their products. During the holiday season, wreaths are created by interior designers for Phoenix Children’s using materials provided by Ace such as wreaths, garland and lights. The decorated door ornaments are then auctioned off for funding the hospital.
In addition, Ace Hardware regularly opens their front doors to Girl Scouts selling cookies, veterans selling Buddy Poppies and community events such as Ladies Night happening Nov. 15. Ladies Night will have raffle prizes, gift bags, live music, food and wine, and will benefit the Against Abuse La Casa De Paz, a local women and children shelter.
“We sponsor a youth baseball team, “Richey said. “That’s just another example of not just writing a check or selling tickets to support things, but actually having community members who are also employees involved in the program.”
Out of 38 employees, Richey estimates only a couple do not live in Maricopa, making it easier to hear and understand what the community needs are.
“We try to support a lot of causes around town,” Richey said. “We’ve been recognized for that as well but, you know, the recognition is not the reason to do it. The reason to do it is so that we can support the community that supports us first. It’s been very rewarding to be able to be involved in things and give back to the community.”
The vast majority of Ace Hardware stores are individually owned and operated, which leaves the owners with a little more wiggle room for what products they stock. For Richey, that means he can cater to a variety of different community members who walk through his doors.
“We really have two main customer bases. One is the do-it-yourself-ers, or the homeowners in town,” Richey said. “The other is the commercial side, whether it be handymen or plumbers, landscapers or the commercial customers such as City of Maricopa or Ak-Chin Community.”
For Richey, running a local store that caters to community needs is in his blood. Born and raised in the tiny town of Buffalo, Indiana, home to just 500 residents, Richey learned how to operate a store at his father’s knee. His father owned Buffalo Park Discount, a building material and hardware store. By age 8, Richey was driving a forklift around the store.
It wasn’t just store ownership that he learned from his father; he also learned how to interact with a community who needs them as much as they need the community.
“That’s one of the reasons why I like to get involved in things,” Richey said. “We had a volunteer fire department in Buffalo and so they’d have a fish fry ... and they’d always came to see my dad to see if he would support them.”
For a man who now operates his own successful local store, it’s hard to picture him doing anything else. But when he moved to Arizona from Indiana some 35 years ago, he first tried his hand in real estate. When the recession hit, it was time for a career change. He found the Ace Hardware store in Maricopa and hasn’t looked back since.
He lives with his wife in Ahwatukee, and makes the daily commute to Maricopa. His two daughters are grown, and he is now a proud grandpa of four.
Though his father passed away when Richey was in college, he never forgot the lessons he taught him.
“That’d be really sweet, if he could see what we’ve done at this point,” Richey said.