Charles “Skip” King has been named SBA’s 2018 Montana Small Business Person of the Year.

King is a second generation owner of King’s ACE Hardware in Billings.  His father purchased their first hardware store in 1987, and purchased a second store the following year.  Both stores were converted to ACE Hardware stores in 1995.  Skip has been involved in the business since the beginning, and when his father passed away unexpectedly in 1997, he assumed the day to day management of the company.  This was a difficult time for neighborhood hardware stores in Billings with box stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s taking a large slice of the market share. The business found its niche in providing excellent customer service and product knowledge, and it has served them well.  King’s ACE Hardware stores may not carry the expanded inventory of the box stores, but they deliver on customer service.

There has been tremendous growth in the business since 2010 with the construction of two new stores in Billings, and purchase of an existing ACE Hardware store in the neighboring community of Laurel from the retiring owner in 2012.  Skip utilized the SBA 504 loan program to fund his growing business with total financing to date of $2,534,000.  The five combined stores have over 84,000 sq. ft. of retail space and generate just short of $18,000,000 in sales. All of the stores are successful serving as neighborhood hardware stores and currently employ 103 full and part-time employees.

More than just a hardware store, the business carries a large line of pet food and supplies, home brewing equipment and other unique products and services.  Always keeping the needs of customers in mind, the stores provide postal services and are a one stop USPS place for sending packages.  Finally, there is the free popcorn that is available to customers as they shop!

The business continues to expand and thrive under Skip King’s leadership. His vision, determination and entrepreneurial spirit drive the success of the business.  He has built strong relationships in the community starting with his family’s first hardware store purchase 30 years ago.  Skip’s legacy of treating employees and customers like family continues to grow; and with it comes the growth of good jobs and devoted employees.

Skip King was nominated by Brandon Berger, Finance Director at Big Sky Finance, Billings, Montana.