A Neighborhood Hardware Store. 110 Years in the Making.

Hard work, passion, compassion, knowledge and a good-old-fashioned love for the hardware business is what started Westlake, and it's what has helped Westlake continue to grow after a long and honorable 110 years. Now here's the story.

Westlake ACE Down Arrow
1875 William Irvin Westlake (aka: W.I.)

Meet William Irvin Westlake (aka: W.I.)

Westlake hardware stores started with one man: William Irvin (better known as W.I.). W.I. was raised on a farm and grew up with strong, rural values. During his adolescence, he worked hard, honestly and for long hours in a hardware store, and soon discovered a passion to one day have his own. At the age of 30, he put that passion into motion. But not before meeting the love of his life.

Hammer
1905 Heart

Meet His Match, Scottie Knox

You may not think it from the photo, but Scottie was quite a unique woman. She was spunky, funny, hard working and smart (what you'd call "a real catch" today). And W.I. was drawn to her right away. They met at a party when she was 22. And they married that same year. He had met his match.

Small Heart W.I. & Scottie, 1905
1908 The first Westlake store, 1908 Sewing Machine

The Start of Westlake Hardware Store

Having worked in a hardware store pretty much his entire life, W.I. acquired a knowledge and passion for the hardware industry. In 1905, he bought part ownership of a Bagby and Doyle hardware store in Huntsville, Missouri. And just three short years later, he became the sole proprietor and named it W.I. Westlake's Hardware Store.

The Good Heart of W.I. Westlake

It was well known throughout the small town of Huntsville that if you needed money, you didn't go to a bank. You went to W.I. No questions asked. And he didn't even charge interest. Even through the Great Depression, W.I. did his best to help out neighbors as much as he could. He truly ran a "friendly neighborhood hardware store."

Coin Coin To Friends, Customers and All. We extend our sincere appreciation for the assistance given us in making our business a success in 1906. May health, wealth and prosperity be yours. Remember us in the year 1907 and we will continue to save you money on your Hardware. Yours gratefully, Westlake & Doyle.
Do you love your wife? Westlake & Doyle Ad

Advertising that Outsmarted the Competition

While other competitors' ads were written toward men and competed for the female trade with price point advertising (like an extra strong egg beater for $.08), W.I. took a more innovative and sophisticated approach.

1915

Meet Francis Knox Westlake, (aka: F.K.)

In 1915, W.I. and Scottie Westlake had their first child: Francis Knox (known as F.K.). Eight years later, he became a big brother to Martha Will. At age 12, F.K. began managing his father's hardware store when W.I. was away. By doing this, F.K. acquired the same passion for the industry. Even after leaving for college, going off to war, and starting multiple businesses, he came back to his father's hardware store to take over the family business.

Keen Kutter Tools F.K. & his younger sister, Martha Will
1946-49 Moberly, 1949.

The Start of Westlake's Expansion

Those who worked for F.K. always claimed that, no matter what other businesses he was involved in, his first love was the hardware business. And he proved that true in 1946 when he took that love for the business and opened a new Westlake in Monroe City, Missouri. And again in 1949 when he incorporated the Westlake Hardware Company and opened a new store in Moberly, Missouri - where he ended up raising his family.

Wrench
1955

The Self-Service Revolution

In 1955, almost all hardware stores still had the long counters and rolling ladders. The customers would tell the clerk what they wanted and the clerk would climb the ladders and retrieve the item. In F.K.'s newest store, for the first time ever, people could actually browse through the aisles and select their own merchandise. It was a bold move for their 50th anniversary. And the new concept worked.

50th Anniversary Seal Westlake Store
1959 W.I. Westlake

We Say Farewell to W.I.

After 54 years of hard honest labor, W.I. died at the age of 84. He worked nearly to the end in his Huntsville store and enjoyed every day of it.

W.I. and kids
1959 Map Westlake's Hardware | Housewares

Westlake, Meet Ace. Ace, Meet Westlake.

Before "Westlake Ace Hardware", there was "Westlake's Ace Hardware". With nearly 300 stores nationwide, Ace seemed like a perfect partner for Westlake (in F.K.'s eyes). And because of his persistence and convincing passion, Ace decided to partner with him. To this day, although Ace has more than 5,000 stores in 62 countries and all 50 states, Westlake Ace Hardware remains its largest volume dealer.

Westlake Sign: Watch for Grand Opening Westlake's ACE Hardware
1960 Westlake's ACE Hardware

An Eye for Location

F.K. was known for having an eye for location. One time, he spied a store that he liked in Macon, Missouri. F.K. made an offer, the owner accepted, cleared out the register and left everything behind, including his employees. F.K. put his own money in the register, kept the same employees and sold off the merchandise they didn't like. Another bold move, but another successful move. By 1973, there were nine Westlake stores that made up the Westlake family.

Screwdriver
1970s

Doing Well at Doing Good

F.K. made a point of hiring the kind of people who liked to help out in the community, whether it helped the business or not. That's why all of the Westlake location managers gave back by sponsoring baseball teams, softball leagues, the United Way, the Boy Scouts, churches, schools and colleges, and even law enforcement programs. All in a day's work for Westlake.

Westlake Sponsored League in the 1970s
1972 Chet Huntley congratulates F.K.

Westlake Wins the Oscar of Retailing

On May 10, 1972, Westlake was named "National Retailer of the Year" by the Brand Names Foundation. It was a pretty big deal for F.K., as he was even presented the award by none other than the best-known broadcaster in the world, Chet Huntley. Not bad for a small-town hardware guy from middle-Missouri.

1983

And Then There Were 28

In just 10 years, Westlake had gone from nine storefronts to 28 locations across the country. This included new stores in both Oklahoma and Nebraska. And in an effort to shift the Westlake geography from the heart of Missouri to the heart of America, a regional office was opened in Overland Park, Kansas, in 1984 and the corporate headquarters moved to Lenexa, Kansas, in 1986.

Westlake ACE Hardware Map
1985 Scott Westlake

A Family-Owned Business 80 Years Later

After years of devoted service, F.K. chose to gracefully and confidently retire from the Westlake hardware business. But he kept ownership within the family by turning the business over to his son, Scott Westlake, who emerged as just the third head of Westlake in its 80-year history.

1991

Howard Elsberry Takes Over as CEO in 1991

After four years as CEO, Scott Westlake left to pursue other interests. He passed along the torch to his sister Anne Elsberry's husband, Howard Elsberry. And Howard more than proved himself within the Westlake family by nearly doubling the number of Westlake storefronts by the time he stepped down in 2006.

Scanner Howard Elsberry
1992

Westlake Loses a Great Man

On January 22, 1992, an era came to an end. After several years of failing health, F.K. Westlake died at the age of 76. He had lived a productive and noble life. His obituary reminded everyone of how he gave so much to the community, having volunteered with Boy Scouts, the Church and the Chamber, and how he had once won the "Oscar of Retailing."

Mr. Frank K. Westlake has been a source of inspiration for not only youth, but hundreds of adults as well. He demonstrates, through example, that service to others is not only a responsiblity, but a privilege, of our great free enterprise system of American business. F.K. Westlake
2005 Happy Birthday

Happy 100th Birthday, Westlake

In 2005, Westlake hit a monumental mark: its 100th year in business. With challenges ranging from the Great Depression to big-box companies popping up left and right, Westlake continued (and continues) to grow. In a century, Westlake officially perfected the task of helping America help itself - one helpful interaction at a time.

Westlake Hardware 100 Years Logo
2007 George Smith

A Key, a Job and a CEO.

In 1976, a man by the name of George Smith walked into a Westlake Hardware needing a key cut. But because the staff appeared to be busy, he took it upon himself to cut his own key and ended up walking out of there with a job. 31 years later, he became CEO, leading the company through more expansion, including Westlake's first stores in St. Louis. He retired in 2014.

Key
2012

Westlake Has a New Parent: Ace

After a long, successful co-op, Ace Hardware decided to purchase the Westlake chain, keeping the name and the history alive. To date, we now have 91 Westlake Ace Hardware locations in the U.S.

Westlake ACE Hardware
2015

110 Years. And Still Your Helpful Neighborhood Hardware Store.

From the early days of W.I.'s first hardware store, Westlake has been a place where neighbors can come for help. And to this day, more than a century later, we like to think we continue to offer the same dedication you've come to expect. We appreciate every customer who has walked through our door, and we can't wait to see what the next 110 years have in store for this neighborhood hardware store.

Westlake ACE Hardware 110th Anniversary | Est 1905

Tom Knox, CEO of Westlake Ace Hardware

"For 110 years, generations of customers have relied on Westlake Hardware to be their go-to source for reliable, friendly advice and high-quality products. The rich, decades-long tradition of service we've built since 1905 is remarkable when you consider that -- in this era of large, impersonal big box retailers -- we've grown, added new and exciting products, and attracted new customers who value our focus on them and their needs."

Tom Knox, CEO of Westlake ACE Hardware