Posts Tagged ‘Ace Harware’

ALONG THE ROAD

August 7, 2011

U.S. Highway 99, which began its life as the Pacific Highway, was built to connect the three most western states to each other, California, Oregon and Washington.  It did more than that, it connected the settlements and little towns to each other.  Not near as efficient as the current Freeway but it gave us a way to travel between towns and areas and it allowed products to come into the towns from all over the country.

Businesses to meet the needs and desires of the local residents as well as passing travelers, were established and did well if the effort was expended. 

One of those, with it roots on Highway 99 was celebrated in our local newspaper this morning.  Jerry’s, our local Do-It-Yourself and home town lumber and hardware store is celebrating its fiftieth birthday.  Not only has it been in business 50 years, it has been 50 years on Hwy 99.     

Highway 99 through Eugene was moved from River Road and its flood problems in 1936.  The new route was north on 6th St. through the city to the west side where it rejoined southbound 7th St. to become just Hwy 99 again as it headed north to Junction City.

It was on this north end of town, past many businesses and developments that Jerry and Merle Orem founded Jerry’s Ace Hardware Store on Hwy 99. 

Ace Hardware was not a franchise but a centralized purchasing organization to supply members’ stores.   It was founded in 1924, in Chicago, Illinois and named for the Ace fighter pilots of World War I.  By 1949, the retail network had expanded to hundreds of dealers.  In fact, in a drive along Hwy 99 there was hardly a  town without an Ace Hardware  and they weren’t limited to just the towns on the Highway.   Now they are international although the structure of the company has changed.

During the 1980′ Jerry’s was facing major market changes.  With big box stores and national chains crowding out many family owned businesses, the Orem family  took the gamble, moved a few blocks down the road and built a new store that offers lower prices, more selection and a focus on do-it-yourselfers.  We have been shopping at Jerry’s since we moved to the Eugene area in the sixties and gladly followed them when they moved into the new store.  50 years in a family owned business is rare and worthy of a celebration.  ( They have also opened a second store-this one in neighboring Springfield.  Although I hope it is successful, it is not of the same interest for me because it’s not on Hwy 99, not as accessible to the people from south, north, and west who come to shop, almost in their own expanded neighborhood.)

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