Ace Kvale

Named by a Mormon missionary who had seen Hawaii's Mount Loa, the town of Loa, Utah, is ringed by national parks and mountains. Its remoteness breeds multitaskers like Greg Pace, who manages the store while also serving in the town's fire department and as an emergency medical technician. 

Small-Town Life Loa’s population is 750. Our elevation is 7,200 feet. We get very cold—it gets down to 20 below at night in the winter—and 7 to 10 inches of rain a year. There are a lot of international tourists who come in to see the national parks. We are the only hardware store in one direction for 50 miles and in the other direction for 250 miles. That means we have to stock a little bit of a lot of different things.

We Do Our Own Freighting We pick up all our [non-hardware] stuff from the distributors. We drive to Salt Lake City at least once a week. Our truck goes every Tuesday, so on Monday I get tons of phone calls—“Hey, I need this.” When you’re in a remote area, people plan better. My dad’s in the truck today. He’ll make 25 different stops at suppliers.

The Cost of Remoteness It’s 200 miles one-way to Salt Lake City. It costs me about $500 to make the trip, so I have a percentage that we put on [our prices] to cover the expense. I talk to other dealers, and they say, “We have trucks come to us every day.” We don’t have that luxury. My inventory turns last year were 4.3.

Special Delivery Every Thursday we send a truck to the cities of Boulder and Escalante, Utah. Escalante is 84 miles from my store, and there’s not a hardware store over there. So we load up goods and drop them off at people’s houses all over.

Extra Duties I’m an emergency medical technician [EMT] and a fireman, and I was on search and rescue. We get about 30 fire calls a year. There are about 20 EMTs in a 25-mile radius of Loa, so you take turns covering. The hard part about the job is that you often respond to calls involving people you know.

My Yardsticks Everybody looks at gross sales and numbers like that, and it’s nice to see things improving. Through the downturn in housing, it’s been an opportunity for us to get more efficient at what we do. I measure efficiency now partly by my personnel. We have seven employees, and five of them are named Pace. We’re not big, but we move quite a bit of material given what we have.