Business of Excellence – Bolthouse Merchandising Corporation

  • Hastings Ace Hardware 
  • Byron Center Ace Hardware 
  • Midtown (Kalamazoo) Ace Hardware 

Bolthouse Merchandising Corporation is one of the go-to companies for hardware and home improvement in Central Michigan. The family-owned enterprise owns three Ace Hardware stores: Hastings, the store that started it all 57 years ago; Byron Center, the quintessential small-town store roughly 30 minutes from Hastings; and Midtown, the newest addition that opened in Kalamazoo in 2018. They partnered with Paladin Data Corporation and leverage the Managed Network offering to keep them all running smoothly. 

John and Jerry Bolthouse, who grew up working in the Hastings store, now run the company and in 2011 selected Paladin as their technology partner because of the company’s relationship and compatibility with Ace Hardware. John says Paladin’s multiple EDI supplier integrations and ability to run programs like Ace Rewards and In-Store Pickup are the primary reasons for their decision. 

The enterprise started in Hastings with the store John and Jerry’s parents opened in 1962 and it has grown steadily over the years. Hastings Ace, with approximately 30,000 square feet and 100,000 SKUs, is the largest store. Byron Center and Kalamazoo are both about one-third the size and have about half as much inventory as Hastings Ace. The enterprise has approximately 65 employees and does roughly $6 million in annual sales. 

“Paladin is the backbone of our business. It ties our sales to Ace. Without it, we’d be lost. I guess anybody can run a point of sale system, but Paladin links it all together,” John explains. 

As John’s business grew, so did his knowledge of technology and comfort level with it. He learned a lot about his network on his own, but his two sons – Zachary and Aaron – both work in the tech industry and they’ve helped their dad become very tech savvy. John’s wife Carol also provides a lot of support with back-office management. When he began looking for a way to protect his digital assets and their network, he chose Paladin’s Managed Network.

The enterprise has 60 computers on its three-store network and close to 70 devices on the Hasting store alone. The Hastings store utilizes cloud-managed Cisco Meraki switching and all three stores use Cisco Meraki cloud-managed firewall and security appliances. The equipment and Paladin’s Managed Network specialists keep all three stores performing at their best.

“When your business is dependent on running on the internet for credit cards and so on, you can’t be down for a minute. You just can’t. There’s no way to run a sale if you don’t have your point of sale and you don’t have your credit card terminals. It’s vital,” John explains. “When customers can’t pay for merchandise, it’s impossible to operate. That makes my stress level too high. I just want these machines to run and Managed Network keeps them running.” 

In 2018, Cisco equipment blocked 7 trillion threats from customer networks. That’s 20 billion per day and studies show that retailers are targeted by cybercrime three times more often than the financial industry. 

Managed Network constantly monitors John’s network to optimize performance, reliability and security. His favorite features are the reliable internet connections for all three stores and the reports that show him results. 

“The main store has two separate internet providers. The other stores have cellular backups. If one of them goes down, it’s basically transparent to me because it switches so fast. I don’t even know about it until I get an email telling me about it,” he said. “I like the reporting. I like to see what’s going on in my networks. It’s been fantastic.”

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