The year 2020 became one that tested everyone in ways never imagined.
For business leaders, they contended with circumstances they had never encountered before. There were issues with supply chain, facility capacity limitations, shutdowns, social distancing, mask mandates, COVID exposure protocol, staffing, sanitization, health, and safety – to name a few.
Over the past few years, the staff at the Fillmore County Journal has considered initiating a “Business Person of the Year” nomination process that involves community participation. Given the unprecedented times faced in 2020, this seemed like the right time to introduce this point of recognition.
In December of 2020, we published a nomination form for 2020 Business Person of the Year with a submission deadline of December 31, 2020.
Within approximately four weeks, the Fillmore County Journal received nominations for 25 business leaders spanning Mower, Fillmore and Houston counties in Southeast Minnesota.
There are a lot of great business leaders in this region, and customers take notice.
With the submission forms for all 25 nominees placed on a table in the newspaper conference room, all Journal employees voted on their top three candidates worthy of the title “2020 Business Person of the Year.” In the end, there could only be one nominee publicly recognized with this award of excellence.
Drum roll please…
The 2020 Business Person of the Year is Todd Jones, owner of ACE Hardware in Spring Valley, Minn.
While Spring Valley native Todd Jones is deserving of the title “Business Person of the Year,” this recognition has been many years in the making.
His parents Bob and Rhoda started the family hardware store business in downtown Spring Valley in 1965.
In 2003, Todd and his wife Jill bought the hardware store from his parents.
Then, in June of 2011, the Jones family lost their store in a fire. This presented an opportunity to rethink their long-term plan for the family hardware business. They moved out to Highway 63 with a brand new store that opened in May of 2013.
While Todd Jones had envisioned retiring in the store they had just constructed, he was approached by a real estate broker representing the owner of the old ALCO building in Spring Valley. His new store he had just built was approximately 7,000 square feet. The ALCO building was 21,000 square feet. That increased space would allow for Jones to present inventory in a different and better way. It was worthy of consideration. He wanted to provide products and services with his store so that customers wouldn’t have to drive to Rochester or other big cities to get what they needed. He wanted to be able to offer everything under one roof to better serve customers.
He resisted making that move for a long time, but finally felt like the stars were aligned.
Todd and his staff moved over to the old ALCO building in February of 2020. “Then COVID hit and it was chaos,” explained Jones. “I didn’t know if it was the new store opening or the pandemic.”
Jones and his staff were overwhelmed with customers seeking high demand products, which placed tremendous pressure on him and his employees.
He’s still not sure what to consider normal yet when ordering for 2021, because 2020 was so abnormal.
What people say about Todd
One customer shared, “We buy bags of salt for our water softener. He brings them to our house, and then down to the basement. Even pours some into the softener appliance. This is wonderful because we are elderly and cannot carry it ourselves. One time, we bought necessary equipment to put in an extra outside-the-house water faucet. After our purchase, he came over and hooked up the faucet. It never stops with Todd. He treats his customers like this, regardless how busy he is!”
When asked what motivates Todd, this nominator offered, “This is just Todd’s nature. He feels he isn’t going out of his way. Todd is ‘one of a kind.’”
Another fan of Todd and his store remarked, “Todd and his staff are always so helpful, business like, and knowledgeable. It is always a pleasure to do business at ACE. Appreciate carry-out, too.” They appreciated Todd’s service to the community as a volunteer firefighter and his time served on the city council. Todd Jones has been a volunteer firefighter with the Spring Valley Fire Department since 2007, and he has served two terms on the Spring Valley City Council for a total of eight years.
“Friendly, helpful and courteous!” The words used to describe Jones.
And, another nominator praised, “Todd gives great customer service to all age of people. He works well with all employees, too. He hires high school students and teaches them to make change by counting it out. He has hired special need students and is very patient in finding their strengths and abilities. He wants employees to be familiar with location of merchandise in the store and get questions answered if they are unable to answer them.”
“He is a local small town gentleman who knows that word of mouth is a great way of advertising. Customers come from area communities because of the service,” added the nominator.
What motivates Todd? “He is very caring and willing to help people. He goes to homes to help install items if people have questions after trying the installation themselves. If elderly people come in for various purchases, Todd is concerned about their safety in installing or using the product. He will make a home visit to help. For example, he will help change a light bulb on a porch or stairway if he is concerned about the person on a ladder.”
When asked what word or phrase can be used to describe him or her, “Prince of Customer Service” was the answer.
The success of our small town businesses requires great leadership. Todd Jones has a calling in life, and it’s his customers.
To see the rest of the nominees and what nominators had to say about them, look to pages 6 and 7 of today’s newspaper. To be nominated is an honor in itself.
Visit their website at AceHardware.com.