Ace Hardware celebrates 45 years

By: 
Dalton Sweat, Editor

Wimberley Ace Hardware before the gas pumps were removed in the 1990s.

Ace Hardware has seen a lot of change in Wimberley, but that is true for anything that has been around for 45 years. 

John Kingrey first opened up what would eventually become Wimberley Ace on May 14, 1972 and it officially became Ace Hardware in 1977. 

Since then, Ace has seen Wimberley through the thick and thin, and Wimberley has seen Ace go through its own perils. 

On February 22, 2013, the 60-year-old building burned to the ground.

“It was eye opening,” Christy Degenhart, who owns the store with her husband Tad, said. “We truly saw how much this town loves the store and our employees.”

It wasn’t too much of a surprise, as the community had long held the local hardware store in high regard. That is what happens when a business focuses on supporting local non-profits and youth groups as strongly as Wimberley Ace does.

An annex store was opened across the street to try and continue to supply community needs. It was only 900 square feet, but it would have to do for the next 11 months until a new building could be built.

In 2015, Ace showed why it is beloved by the local community. In the midst of the worst natural disaster Wimberley has seen, the local hardware store became a pillar of the community hosting and directing volunteers for weeks, if not months, after the flood.

“It is a blessing for us to be able to be a part of this community in this way,” Degenhart said. 

Later that year, Tad and Christy purchased the rest of Wimberley Ace, along with the Canyon Lake Ace Hardware from long-time partner Richard Kilcrease and the rest, as they say, is history.

The history behind Wimberley Ace

This story ran in the Wimberley View in 2012 for the 40th anniversary of the business. It has been lightly edited to reflect current information.

In 1971, John Kingrey left his position as store manager at a local drug store chain in Scottsdale Arizona and moved to Wimberley.  John’s mother, father, sister and brother-in-law were all Wimberley residents.  They had convinced John to assist in a small business start-up called “Wimberley Discount Center.” In May 1972, the corporation was formed and Mr. Kingrey joined the Ace Hardware co-op a short time later changing the company name to “Wimberley Ace Hardware.”

Prior to Wimberley Discount Center, the building was a grocery store built around 1950.  Abandoned for several years, the building was in great disrepair. With a great deal of hard work and confidence that the community would grow, the building has undergone a total of five additions resulting in the structure you see today. 

John’s sister, Shawn, and brother-in-law, Floyd Wright, retired a few years after the store opened and John Kingrey and his wife Phyllis continued the operation. John likes to tell the story of how he came to Wimberley to put a store together, make it profitable, and then sell out in a few years to go on to something else. Those few years resulted into thirty-one (31) years of building the store and serving the community he thoroughly enjoyed and loved.

It is great to hear John tell of the days when he would have to drive to Austin and San Antonio to buy products for the store to sell. He used old handmade wooden shelves that were left in the store. It was something how he battled the poor lighting, no air conditioning and a heater that was somewhat scary to fire up on those really cold days.

In the early days, John would do anything to attract customers. The building used to stop at what is now aisle 19.  So, in the back of the store John built a huge barbeque pit.  John would cook almost anything over night making the place smell like good ole’ Texas barbeque! There was a time when John had a portable roller skating rink located on the FM 2325 side of the store. What fun! Gas pumps were installed and supplied the community for many years. As the town continued to grow and gas stations were “popping up” the pumps were removed in 1995 to aid in expansion of the parking lot.  Several aisles of groceries and over forty feet of cool cases and freezers existed until Brookshire’s was established and most of the groceries were eliminated and the hardware products were expanded. Interestingly, early in the 1980s, John installed a coin operated game arcade in the front area of the store. He quickly found out it provided a hangout for local youths and was, let’s say, less than profitable. That space long ago became our general staff office. With all the diverse growth and change the store has experienced over the years, folks have mentioned that Wimberley Ace Hardware is the Wal-Mart of Wimberley.  We accept that statement as a compliment for our variety of products and hopefully the success of locating what you need without having to drive to a neighboring city.

Finally, in 2003, after serving on the Ace Board of Directors for nine years, John retired and sold the store to his brother-in-law, Richard Kilcrease and his wife Angela. John retired and left quite a legacy behind in the community.  Wimberley Ace is still a place where folks can come in for a free cup of coffee, spend a few coins for a bag of popcorn, sign up for a local team or just chat.

In 2005, Richard and Tad Degenhart, the store’s General Manager, became partners and opened the Canyon Lake Ace Hardware. Tad began his working career at Wimberley Ace in high school and when he graduated college he never left.

On February 22, 2013, Ace Hardware faced a nightmare as the store caught fire and burned down due to electrical issues. But that wasn’t the end of the story for this community business. The store was rebuilt and opened in January of 2014.

Now Tad and his wife Christy, the Gift and Toy buyer for Wimberley Ace, have taken over the store entirely after Richard’s retirement. The Degenhart family took full ownership of the business in December of 2014.

Another longtime familiar face of Ace is Cary Palumbo, the store’s Assistant General Manager. Cary also began working at Ace Hardware in high school and has been here for almost 23 years.

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