Life’s a little stressful if you’re in the hardware business these days. The all-American, mom-and-pop hardware store has been hammered by the big-box boys—Lowe’s, Home Depot and Walmart. And looming larger still is the unrelenting pressure from Amazon, which, as you might expect, lists a staggering 70,000 items under tools and home improvement alone. In the center of this competitive storm sits Ace, the “helpful place” whose 5,000 locations walk a fine line between chain-store economics and a small-town feel. Each Ace Hardware store is independently owned and operated.