Kendall’s Ace Hardware: “Friendliest stores in town” stay true to their roots

Kendall Crosby and the staff at Kendall’s Ace Hardware aim to create the “friendliest stores in town.” Wearing tie-dye T-shirts with the edgy tagline “Screw it!,” employees jump at the chance to help customers find something, and encourage fixing instead of replacing things.

Alexandra Crosby works on a Valentine’s Day window display at Kendall’s Ace Hardware. Coming from a job at department stores, she now assembles supplies sold at the store, such as ladders, Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products and a grill into something much more like art, adding to the business’ unique approach to hardware.

With a giant galvanized steel replica of a bolt, Kendall’s Ace Hardware stands out on the corner of Phalen Boulevard and Payne Avenue.

Kendall's Ace Hardware
840 Payne Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55101
(Located at the Corner of Payne Ave. & Phalen)

978 N. Dale Street
Saint Paul, MN 55117
Visit website

Although now transplanted, Kendall Crosby is fanatically loyal to his roots.

After getting into the hardware field in the 1970s, he spent years coveting Payne Avenue Hardware, the go-to place for hardware buffs as well as beginners on St. Paul’s East Side for 50 years.

“A dream come true,” he bought it in 2004, and called it Kendall’s Ace Hardware.

He wanted to stay true to the flavor of the previous owners, Bill and Gladys Godwin.

He wanted it to be a real hardware store, like Bill’s. Not a cookie-cutter retail store.

He wanted people to be able to get in, get help and get out, and not get trapped in a maze of displays meant to keep customers in the store as long as possible.

“It doesn’t pay the big bucks, but this is what we do,” he says. “This is what we are.”

Even after the store moved down the street onto the high-traffic corner of Payne Avenue and Phalen Boulevard in 2012 to allow the city to build a library and community center, Kendall tried to retain the feel of the previous store.

He recreated the former shop, integrating old windows, doors and a vault. He even replicated the old office space.

Creativity melds with product knowledge

Although inspired by his predecessors, Kendall does operate the hardware business a little differently.

From the staff’s tie-dye T-shirts to the buttery smell of popping popcorn that fills the store to the giant galvanized steel replica of a bolt protruding from the side of the building, he and his family invest time and creativity into every inch of the new store.

Kendall’s wife, Alexandra, designs unique window displays, setting up paint sticks, Mrs. Meyers earth-friendly cleaning products and trash bins into something more like art than just supplies. They construct all of their own props in their basement shop, where windows are also custom-made and repaired.

His daughter, Ashley, rescues animals. Customers are now greeted by Tula, a dog usually plopped on a bed by the cash register, and the store cats, Monkey and Bell. Their presence inspired a pet supply section in the store, one of the only spots in the area to buy such goods.

Kendall deliberately hires people who are not only knowledgeable about the Craftsman products exclusive to Ace, the sought-after Valspar paint and the aisles and aisles of tools, nuts and bolts, but also committed to Kendall’s mission to build the business’ reputation as the friendliest stores in town. 

And, boy, are they friendly. The staff jumps at the chance to help customers out when they walk through the door, asking “What are you looking for?” They help customers fix things instead of replace them.

Although the business is named after him, Kendall hopes it’s anything but his.

“We run it, but we really want people to go there and feel like it’s theirs,” he says.

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