David Evans starting working at his parents’ hardware store in Hamilton in 2008. In 2010, he bought it. Once he was fully committed to the business, he began to expand it, and part of that was a conscious attempt to engage the community.
The first project was painting murals on the side of the building at 714 N. First. He gave four high school art students a loose outline and style theme, kind of a 1920’s art deco feel, and “they nailed it.”
Next came the Mammo Man campaign to raise money for mammographies for people who couldn’t afford them. Before Sprinkle Pink, and before Colors of Cancer, there was Mammo Man. People dressed up as Mammo Man. Ace Hardware employees would volunteer to make a costume and dress up to raise money. Evans recalls that the first costume was made with pink duct tape. The program was fun and successful.
“My mindset is that we just have a really special, special community here,” says Evans. “It’s a real gift to be able to live here.”
“But,” he adds, “if you’re going to have a brick and mortar store you have to get the community to be involved in it.”
Every month of the year, Evans chooses a special cause to promote and raise funds for.
The Daly Mansion was an easy choice, because Evans had served on the board. He scheduled an in-store event with “Mrs. Daly” on hand to visit with people and had a “round up at the register” where customers can round up to the nearest dollar and donate their change.
“We’re creating an experience for people when they come into the store,” says Evans. “We don’t want to look like a box store.”
“With 700 people per day coming through here,” says Evans, “there’s such an opportunity for us to get the word out. Ace corporate also encourages trying to connect with your community through community service work. The CEO said recently, ‘Who’s more helpful in the neighborhood than your health care workers?’”
That got him thinking. Evans said that both of his parents had died of lung cancer. He approached Marcus Daly Hospice last year when many of
Ace’s events were put on hiatus due to Covid. He was also looking at the store’s investment in supplying disposable masks to their customers.
“People who wore masks in a lot of ways started to symbolize selflessness,” said Evans. “That’s also how I thought of Hospice. These people dedicate their whole lives to selfless caring and acts of kindness.”
So the store matched the cost of the masks and donated that amount to Hospice.
Evans said the community’s engagement in supporting these local non-profits continues to grow. He said customers donated close to $6000 for Colors of Cancer (for the cancer infusion center being built by Marcus Daly Hospital) through the round-ups and raffles and donations for food that they served. “We took it a little further this year, and did that for a whole month.”
Evans said they’ve never had a complaint about their seemingly endless campaigns.
“So many people don’t realize how some of these non-profits are funded. It’s through us, through the community,” says Evans. “We like to give these groups an opportunity to come here so the people can put a face with a name and see that there are actual people who run these non-profits.”
Other groups or causes that have been featured or will be in the future are the Bitter Root Humane Association, Teacher Appreciation, Autism Awareness, SAFE, Bitterroot Youth Homes, and Bitter Root Land Trust, to name a few.
For the month of December, Evans Ace will be focusing on a new program, one that Nancy, the inventory specialist, came up with. It’s based on Clarence Oddbody, the famous angel from the holiday film classic, “It’s Wonderful Life,” and one of Evans’ favorite film characters. Between December 1st and 24th, for a minimum $1.00 (or more) donation, people can nominate their favorite health care worker. The name will go on a bell and the bells will be strung throughout the store. The names will then go into a drawing and five names will be drawn on Christmas Eve. These will be the winners of the Evans Ace Oddbody Awards for 2021 and the five winners will each receive a $50 gift card for Evans Ace Hardware. There will also be a Bag Sale on December 4th when health care workers can show their credentials to get 20% off. There will also be a “round up” on the day of the annual Hospice Tree of Lights ceremony. All proceeds will go to Hospice.
Evans is enthusiast about this latest promotion and looking forward to seeing how the community responds. He’s pretty confident it will be popular, just like the others, maybe even more so.
“We’re building a connection between our business, non-profits, and the community,” says Evans. “My community.”