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In 2012, the small town of Hartville, Ohio, became home to the largest independent hardware store in the country, Hartville Hardware. Measuring in at 305,000 square feet (approximately seven acres), the new Hartville Hardware is an incredible demonstration of the resilience of American retailing and proudly shows what is still very much achievable for today's independent retailer.

Beyond it's sheer size and scope, however, the new Hartville Hardware offers an impressive attention to detail and array of retail and merchandising features. The store's design, layout and organization - based largely on input from their customers - reflect its goal of remaining a friendly, local, independent hardware store, no matter how big it may be.

Taken together, the new Hartville Hardware stands as a significant and certainly newsworthy story, especially considering the time and investment that went into its design and construction during one of the worst economic periods our country has ever faced. There are many aspects, features and details that speak to the impressive nature of the store.

Made in the USA Idea House

This 1,850 square foot house built inside the store was conceived as a literal "idea house" - a way to showcase different ideas, trends and products for home enhancements.

The house is constructed almost exclusively of parts made in the USA. This commitment is a perfect example of the growing trend back toward Made in the USA products in the American hardware industry. Even more remarkable is that fully 90 percent of the products used in construction of the home can be purchased in-store at any time and take home the same day.

Historical Facades

As a companion to the Made in the USA house, the store also features an amazing exterior facade of four houses, each representing a distinct architectural style that has influenced the types of homes built in eastern Ohio: Victorian, craftsman, traditional farmhouse and western reserve.

Along with displaying the finest in American craftsmanship, the structures will also showcase products and materials sold in the building center, as well as provide space for the Hartville in-house design team.

Feed Mill Sign

The Miller family of businesses in and around the Hartville area began in 1939 with the opening of the Hartville Livestock Auction. The sign hanging up inside the Hartville Hardware store today is all that survives of that original structure and serves as a testament to the longevity and dedication of the Miller family in this region.

Lighting System

The store uses an innovative daylight harvesting lighting system, combining 72 skylights equipped with sensors to detect when natural light is increasing and turning off fluorescent lighting accordingly. This provides a more pleasant shopping experience for customers while also saving electricity and helping the store operate more efficiently.

Merchandising Layout and Access

While the main level of the store maintains a more traditional retail environment in design and layout, the lower level offers a more convenient, open design for customers to pick up product - especially large orders - themselves.

On the main level, Hartville partnered with several brand-name tool and hardware vendors, providing them dedicated floor space on which they could design and build their own product areas. Given the large size of the main level, this eases navigation, location and overall shopping for customers. It also lends itself to some impressive, advanced and sizable displays by certain brands, including more than 4,000 square feet of space devoted to Carhartt clothing and accessories, as well as an innovative touchscreen display and navigation tool from Hillman Fasteners, which helps customers locate specific nails, screws and other fasteners quickly and easily.

When asking customers what features they wanted in the new store, the number one request was multiple entrances. They disliked the traditional big-box shopping experience, in which you are herded through one central entry point. This is why the new Hartville Hardware offers customers six different entry and exit points across both levels, enabling customers to park closer to the specific products or store areas they are looking for on a particular day.

Hartville Hardware's innovative merchandising is already earning accolades; Casual Living, a business-to-business publication focusing on the leisure-product marketplace, named Hartville Hardware its Best First-Time Entry for the magazine's 2012 Merchandising Awards.

Innovative Use of Space

The greenhouse area at the previous store was used only 4-6 months annually, leaving a lot of underutilized space for the majority of the year. To make the space at the new store more functional year-round, designers installed a large glass door on the exterior that will close after the growing season, enabling the greenhouse to be used as additional retail space throughout the year.