Local, family-owned company with long history in Wooster eyes Everything Rubbermaid building
E&H Hardware to take all four floors for new retail concept and HQ
Vice President, Marketing & Strategy
E&H Hardware Group, LLC
August 2, 2021
WOOSTER — While the Buehler family might have exited the grocery business, they never left Wooster and look to expand the footprint of their growing hardware business on the Public Square.
Rich Fishburn, a great-grandson of Ed and Helen Buehler, the founders of Buehler’s Fresh Foods, always thought the Everything Rubbermaid location (115 S. Market St., Wooster) would be a great spot for his family’s business, E&H Hardware Group.
When Newell Brands announced its plans to shutter the iconic Everything Rubbermaid store in April, Fishburn, E&H’s vice president of operations, and cousin Christopher Buehler, vice president of marketing and strategy, began receiving emails and texts about the building, known as the Quinby Building. “It’s been on our radar for a while,” Fishburn said. “We always thought the Everything Rubbermaid building would be a good choice.”
While Fishburn loved the building and the location, he did not think it would be available any time soon. So, they looked at other sites in the city. In the end, nothing was quite right or big enough.
“This is exciting for us,” Buehler said. “We are re-igniting our investment in our hometown.”
Buehler, who serves on the Main Street Wooster board, also appreciates how the family business will be part of the growth and vitality of the city’s downtown area.
The Buehlers opened their first grocery store in New Philadelphia in 1929, and they opened their Wooster location in 1932. In 1959, they entered the hardware business when they attached an hardware store to its Orrville grocery operations.
In 2011, the family formed E&H Hardware Group (in honor of Ed and Helen Buehler), as they recognized the growth potential of the hardware industry. In 2017, the family sold the grocery operations to the employees.
Local businessmen Chad Boreman and Matt Long, who bought the building in 2018, are also excited to see E&H Hardware Group move into the building. The two were content to lease the space to Newell Brands indefinitely to keep the store as a downtown Wooster destination and anchor.
Boreman and Long, both past presidents of Main Street Wooster, said they really didn’t want a company with no local ties, who didn’t buy into the Main Street principles, to control such a prime location in the downtown area.
Buehler and Fishburn said they envision the location to be the flagship corporate store for E&H Hardware Group. Operating under the retail trade name E&H Ace Hardware, the company has grown to 25 locations; the downtown location will be No. 26.
“We plan on using the store to test new concepts, evaluate layout designs, and try out new products”, described Buehler. This idea of trying out new products was one of the features of the Everything Rubbermaid concept. When the late Lud Huck came up with the concept, part of it was to see how consumers responded to new Rubbermaid products in development.
Initial plans call for about 15,000 square feet of retail space on the first three floors, and the fourth floor will house the headquarters. Fishburn said they envision each retail floor will have a little different look and feel with various product themes.
“It will be a bit of a testing ground for our company’s growth and a training location for our managers,” Fishburn said. “We don’t want it to be a conventional ACE Hardware store. We want it to be a top-of-the-line store.”
As for growth, the company continues to add to its portfolio of stores throughout Northeast Ohio, with locations near Columbus and Cincinnati. E&H adds about two to three stores a year.
When E&H was formed, it owned six hardware stores, all attached to grocery stores. The company grew through acquisitions and building freestanding ACE Hardware stores.
Because of this growth, Buehler said the headquarters, now located above the Buehler Towne Market store, has been running out of room. The company has satellite offices in Independence and Akron to accommodate some of its staff.
The company has about 450 employees around the state, and it plans on having around 20-25 retail workers in the new downtown location. About 35 are employed in the headquarters, though not all will be located here.
Additionally, E&H Hardware Group has entered into an agreement with Lorrie Tignor to purchase Tignor’s Hometown Hardware, along with its plumbing and handyman services business, on Columbus Road. She and her son, Matt Tignor, who has grown the plumbing and handyman services, will join the E&H team in 2022.
“We are excited about the opportunity to continue the long-running tradition of a family owned hardware in downtown Wooster. Combining our hardware with the Buehler family and E&H Ace Hardware, we believe we will be better together”, said Lorrie Tignor.
The entire staff of Tignor’s will also be offered jobs at the new location.
“Tignor’s has a well-respected presence in Wooster and customers have grown fond of the local expertise and friendly service over the years. This is a wonderful opportunity for both of our organizations”, Buehler said.
As for a timeline, Fishburn and Buehler would like to see the E&H headquarters moved by early 2022, with the retail operation opening in March.