Patty Bays came on board as the housewares buyer for Ranch Mart Ace Hardware 16 years ago. At that time, the housewares and kitchenwares department mostly offered basics such as dish-drying racks and ironing boards. Bays’ first addition from an outside vendor was a line of candles made in Canada.
When she first attended the International Housewares Show in Chicago hoping to further expand and upgrade her inventory, things didn’t go as smoothly as she’d hoped.
“No one would sell to me because I was only one store,” Bays says. But she didn’t give up, inking orders with small companies that were just starting out. She remembers one of her first hits with shoppers was a line of enamel plates decorated with pink flamingos and Western motifs, rather than the traditional paint spatters.
Bays still orders some items from Ace warehouses, but she purchases 65 to 70 percent of her store’s housewares directly from outside vendors. Out of roughly 4,500 Ace Hardware stores nationwide, Bays says hers is one of only 100 or so where housewares is the third or fourth top-selling department, right up there with paint or lawn and garden or tools.
The store is locally famous for its decorated Christmas trees, for which Bays goes out of her way to find ornaments. As a result, an annual Ladies Night the second Thursday of November usually attracts more than 400 female shoppers.
When the economy tanked, kitchenware sales at Ranch Mart boomed. “If you can’t afford to go on vacation you can buy gadgets and bake,” Bays says.
Ranch Mart Ace Hardware is at 3801 W. 95th St., Overland Park.