Second Place: Ace Hardware
Third Place: Tom Brown
Talk about an old Richmond polyglot of names. With seven locations and an eighth store to come later this year on Midlothian Turnpike, Pleasants Hardware is still going strong after opening its first store downtown in 1915. C.F. Sauer Foods, the 126-year-old spice maker whose iconic neon sign graces West Broad Street, bought Pleasants in 1989. Part of the Ace Hardware cooperative which helps supply it, Pleasants bought out yet another local hardware stalwart, Tom Brown, in 2000. "We're the only true independent hardware store," Pleasants marketing chief Darrell Campbell says. The local identity certainly helps, with Pleasants going against deep-pocketed big boxes such as Lowe's and Home Depot that dominate suburban strip malls. Campbell says what makes the difference are convenient locations and a knowledgeable staff. "We've got experts at each store," he says. "If you need plumbing, you can get your product and your knowledge and get the job done fast." Voters in our annual poll seem to agree, even if they recall "locally" owned hardware so warmly that they mix up Pleasants, Ace and Tom Brown, which now are basically all the same company.