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Posted: June 29, 2009

Brothers share nuts and bolts

Ace Hardware store owners Kirby and Nick Kuklenski win national Young Retailers of the Year award

Patricia Kaowthumrong

Brothers Kirby and Nick Kuklenski don’t recommend starting a business with a sibling. But it’s worked well for them.

The Kuklenski brothers, owners of Mile High Ace Hardware in Federal Heights and Ace Hardware Uintah Gardens in Colorado Springs, were recently named Young Retailers of the Year in the multiple-store retailers category by the North American Retail Hardware Association. The association recognizes outstanding achievement by hardware retailers age 35 and younger.

Kirby, 28, and Nick, 25, opened their first Ace hardware in Colorado Springs two and half years ago. They became the youngest entrepreneurs to own and operate an Ace Hardware store. Less than a year later, they began construction from the ground up on the Federal Heights store.

Nick credits his and Kirby’s trustful relationship and contrasting personalities for their success as business partners. They say they’ve been lucky.

“Our personalities are much different. We don’t butt heads on a whole lot because we understand each other’s roles, and we understand that each of us is better at different aspects of the business,” Nick said. “I let Kirby take care of what he takes care of, and he lets me take care of what I take care of.”

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Kirby Kuklenski

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Nick Kuklenski

After acquiring degrees in marketing and accounting, Kirby pursued a career in banking, but decided he wouldn’t be happy working for a large corporation. After looking at different business and franchises, Kirby found Ace Hardware and liked the concept behind the company.

“It’s different from other franchises because they don’t make you fit into a mold,” Kirby said. “They take the guess work out of the core categories of starting a hardware store, then you can really be creative with everything else.”
 
Nick received a degree in economics. He said the success he experienced in sports teams in college inspired him to desire success in whatever he pursued after getting his degree.

“I liked the feeling of being successful and being the best, knowing that I did the work to be the best,” Nick said.

Besides Nick’s profitable lawn and garden business in high school, neither brother had any direct experience in hardware or retail when they decided open their first store.

“I think I learned more in six months of owning my own business than in four years of school,” Nick said.

Kirby said he was inspired to open a business where he could work hard and see results, but the people he works with every day soon broadened his individual aspirations.

“Each day I want to make sure that in such a tough economy our associates can all have jobs here, support their families and be happy,” Kirby said.

Kirby and Nick said that the staff at both of their stores should be the individuals credited for their success. Nick said the knowledgeable and enthusiastic associates at their stores set Ace Hardware apart from “big boxes” like Lowe’s or Home Depot.

“I really feel apart of this big family we’ve created at these two stores,” Nick said. 

In the community, the brothers sponsor activities through local schools including a program that teaches jobs skills to special needs students in Colorado Springs. A big part of the Kuklenskis’ stores is to add products relevant to the communities where they’re located and give back to areas as well, Kirby said.

“We’ve only been doing this for two and a half years now,” Nick said. “We’re still new to business, so it’s a huge honor to even be nominated.”

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Patricia Kaowthumrong is a student at the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Contact her at Patricia.Kaowthumrong@colorado.edu.

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