Ace Demonstrates Its Softer Side With 'Heartware' Series

Short docs get up close and personal

Ace Hardware marks its 100th anniversary with a docu-series, "Heartware Stories," launched with a recent event at NYC's Rooftop Cinema Club. 

Five years in the making, "Heartware" comprises 100 shorts that tell personal tales from customers and employees. The work runs the gamut of emotions, with all 50 states represented. Mid-summer, a 12-episode "Heartware" mini-series will air on Apple TV, Google TV and Roku.

At its special gala, Ace screened two of the shorts, "One Pill" and "Operation Brown Bear." Michelle and Jeff Leopold, owners of San Francisco's Standard 5 & 10 Ace, and Laurie and John Luitgaarden, who run Wexford Ace in Wexford, Pa., featured in the films and spoke at the event.

The Leopolds suffered the loss of their son Trevor after he took Oxycodone laced with fentanyl. His death came at a time when Michelle was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She now teaches people at her Ace Hardware store—and beyond—how to use Narcan nasal spray, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

The Luitgaardens use their private plane to deliver teddy bears to sick children across the country through the Children's Miracle Network. The idea sprang when their young son brought a teddy bear home from school with an assignment to return with a story. 

Ace is entrenched in the content business, amassing 10,000 how-to videos on its YouTube channel. But this effort arose after execs across the U.S. heard stories big and small of employees assisting customers beyond selling tools.

"You know Ace as 'The Helpful Place'—it's core to our DNA. But we realized this humanity was pouring out into big ways to customers, to employees, to communities, to neighborhoods, so we documented it," says CMO Kim Lefko. "This is the first time we deviated from how-tos to something that reflects more the heart and soul of the brand."

The majority of the project was handled in-house, led by Ace's creative content manager Allison Pecora. 

Part of the plan is to time stories to cause events, such as National Opioid Awareness Day on Sept. 21, featuring the Leopolds' work to educate people on Narcan. It's also building out a user-generated concept centered on interaction, asking people to share their "Heartware" stories.

Plans for a "Heartware 2.0" have already begun.

"I don't think they realize the magnitude of the impact they're having, and the change people can make," says Lefko. "When you see it in movie form, you realize you're part of something really special. These small, locally-owned stores want to succeed financially, so they can do good socially, which is rare and special--and the world needs to know about it."

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