The popular, 60-year-old Fischer Hardware store in Springfield may have a few years left in it yet. After seeing our article last month on the struggles owners Roy and Pattie Ewers had after affiliating with Ace Hardware in 2009, a hardware supply wholesaler named Orgill out of Memphis stepped up and helped restock the store with fresh merchandise, leading to a boost in sales, Roy Ewers said Tuesday.
The Ewerses continue their legal battle with Ace Hardware, which they claim provided them and local banks with misleading financial documents that allowed them to take out $1.85 million in loans to buy Fischer in late 2008. It appears that many other small hardware store owners around the country have filed similar actions against Ace, and now Rep. Gerry Connolly has stepped in. Last week, he sent a letter to the Small Business Administration, calling for “a robust investigation” into the alleged fraudulent business practices by Ace in obtaining SBA-backed loans for business owners based on allegedly phony business records and projections.
Ace Hardware officials did not respond to requests for comment on Connolly’s letter Tuesday.
Roy Ewers said Orgill agreed to do a "revenue neutral reset” of the store, and that the company’s president “got involved and gave us a plumbing and electrical package.” He said that Irwin Tools of Huntersville, N.C., installed a new high-grade line of tools, all of which has helped the Fischer bottom line.
“We’re not out of the woods,” Ewers said — the store is still in bankruptcy — “but we’re in a lot better shape than before the first article came out. We’ve got positive forward momentum, and we’re going to stay the course until someone shows up and carries me out.”