A devotion to customer service and the melding of old-fashioned features with cutting-edge technology recently earned Nutter Hardware a very hip designation.
Of the 4,850 locally owned and operated Ace Hardware stores throughout the world, Nutter Hardware in the Kingsdale Center in Upper Arlington is among the "coolest."
So says the Ace Hardware Corp., which doesn't rank the top six but recently included the local store in its loftiest of lists.
"The store's ambience takes customers back to a simpler time, with its old-school style reminiscent of a classic general store, with its functioning potbelly stove and old-fashioned ceiling fans," a recent Ace Hardware press release stated. "Part of that traditional piece of Americana is created through the simple things the shop offers, such as vintage soft drinks, free popcorn and, of course, amazing customer service.
"If you come into Nutter Hardware with a project a little too big to handle, you may end up leaving with a lot more help than you expected, thanks to the experience Chuck Nutter brings to his Ace store from his other business, Nutter Handyman Services."
Owner Chuck Nutter and Nutter Hardware, 3078 Kingsdale Center, celebrated four years in the business Aug. 24.
In addition to the "coolest" distinction, which Nutter said "just blew me away," the venture has fulfilled a nearly lifelong quest.
After 23 years in corporate America as a chemical engineer, Nutter started Nutter Handyman Services and quickly decided there was a hardware store void in Upper Arlington, where he has lived since 2003.
He also never lost track of boyhood memories of local hardware store employees who at times gave his father the know-how to perform do-it-yourself projects of all kinds when his dad was a farmer in northeast Ohio.
"I'm one of nine kids raised on a farm and we had to fix everything," Nutter said. "You'd go to the hardware store and those guys would always seem to know how to fix things.
"Never once did I see a handyman come to our house. It was always a dream of mine to own a hardware store."
Right down to an old-fashioned popcorn machine and candy typically offered in a bygone era, Nutter has tried to preserve the old-time hardware store feel.
He also cherishes the winter days when employees and customers alike huddle around his potbelly stove, which just might have bacon or some other offering cooking and free for the taking.
But like those store clerks who assisted his father, Nutter instills attention to service among his roughly 22 employees at the 8,500-square-foot store.
"I'm always looking for people who are passionate about service," he said. "I couldn't care less what they know about hardware. We can teach that."
Nutter Hardware also garnered cool points for allowing customers lines of credit during the derecho storm of July 2012 that wiped out much of the central Ohio power grid for days.
And not credit-card credit, mind you. Credit of the "I Owe You" variety.
"People didn't have cash so we just started writing IOUs," Nutter said. "And you know, every single person came back and paid without a single phone call.
"We've got such a tight community here in Upper Arlington. You form relationships, you know them by name and you know what projects they're working on."
Those relationships have allowed for expansion plans that will yield a 1,700-square-foot paint store, rental center and state-of-the-art small-engine repair shop expected to open in a neighboring storefront by Nov. 1.
They've also helped Nutter continue to maintain a pledge to provide not only "best in class" tools and paints, but a multitude of product offerings for customers.
"Our challenge is to marry the best of the old-fashioned, face-to-face, hands-on customer service and being hugely passionate about that with the latest and greatest in technology," he said. "At the end of the day, we are trying to earn people's business for a lifetime.
"There needs to be a high level of trust and a high confidence in the support we give. I would say that at this point, we've been very fortunate that recipe has worked for us."