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Retooled image: New storefront, website part of Acme’s investment in future

The exterior of Acme Tools at 920 36th St. S. in Fargo is shown. Acme worked with JLG Architects to develop a look that appeals to the construction agency while also appealing to homeowners. David Samson / The Forum

Fargo - Acme Tools, a company that celebrated 65 years in business last year, has recently made some big investments in its future.

Among them was a new storefront with a price tag of more than $300,000 for its Fargo location this spring.

“The front of that building is their brand image,” said Todd Medd, associate principal and Fargo branch manager of JLG.

The architecture firm worked with Acme for 25 years to develop the look that includes red panels, bolts, cables and corrugated metal, all features included to appeal to the construction industry.

Because Acme does a lot of work with contractors, Medd said they wanted to see construction in the branded look at the front of the store. The Fargo store was built in 1981 before this look was established.

Doug Clemens, general manager of Fargo’s Acme Tools, said the new storefront was also intended to attract customers outside of the trade.

He said many people tend to think Acme Tools is only for contractors, but the company also does a lot of business with homeowners and do-it-yourselfers. They wanted to take advantage of their location next to Interstate 29 and use the storefront as a billboard.

“We needed a new look that would draw attention to our store and hopefully drive consumers and homeowners here,” Clemens said. “We remodeled the front end to hopefully make it more welcoming and more open.”

Clemens said once they get people in the door, they’ll keep coming back.

“We have people who know the product lines, and there is a pretty good chance that the person they deal with this year is going to be here next year and five years down the road,” Clemens said.

He said many of their 41 employees have been at the store for 15 or more years, some has many as 30. Training and retention are important to the company, Clemens said, and that experience and knowledge goes a long way with customers.

“One thing we like to say is ‘We’re a tool and equipment store, not a department in a store,’ ” Clemens said.

Company history

George Kuhlman opened the business in 1948 as an electric motor repair shop known as Acme Electric in Grand Forks.

It expanded into tool sales and service when his son, Daniel Kuhlman, joined the company in 1962. Daniel serves as president of the family-owned business today.

Over the years, Acme added nine additional retail locations, including one in Williston, N.D., in 2013.

Growth was fueled by the success of a direct mail catalog operation in 1993, which remains strong today.

Acme also launched an online sales site, ToolCriboftheNorth.com, in February 1999. The site was so successful it was acquired by Amazon.com later that same year.

The business re-entered online sales when it launched AcmeTools.com in 2010. The site underwent an upgrade and redesign this year. The new platform allows customers the option to shop by trade, category or brand. It also included improvements to the search function and checkout process.

The company took things a step further by launching a mobile site in April.

Sharing success

The company will share its success Wednesday when it donates a pink JLG400S Telescopic Boom Lift at the Steffes AgIron auction event at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.

Proceeds for the lift, expected to fetch $25,000, will be given to the Breast Cancer Awareness Association headquartered in Roseville, Minn.

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