Olson’s Ace Hardware in Waukesha to close after 65 years
Third-generation owners prepare to say goodbye to downtown

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

July 25, 2015

 Art Olson stands in Olson’s Ace Hardware on Friday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA — Many memories have been made at Olson’s Ace Hardware in downtown Waukesha in its 65 years of existence — whether that was by a local family watching the toy trains in the front window at Christmastime or the Olson family helping loyal clients with their needs.

But those days are coming to an end.

Olson’s Ace Hardware was started by Art Olson in downtown Waukesha in 1950 and was located where the vacant lot now stands next to the empty Panos. In 1959, the business was moved into its current building at 155 W. Main St.

The business was passed down to Herb Olson and now belongs to his children, Sherri Casper Olson, Jim Olson and Art Olson.

The younger Art Olson said he and his siblings would work around the store during the holidays as kids, but they really began to have more responsibilities for its operation when they were junior high school students. Through the years, they got to know their clients well, he said.

“I appreciate the patronage over all these years,” Olson said.

He said they have been struggling since the downturn in the economy in 2008 and despite efforts to get back on track, they need to close. The final day of business will depend on when the merchandise is gone, which Olson anticipated to be in about a week or two.

When thinking about downtown hardware stores, he said nearly all have gone out of business that he knows about.

One of Olson’s favorite memories is having the annual open house during the Waukesha Christmas Parade. Art’s wife, Pam, would decorate the front window facing Main Street for Christmas. In years past, local families would bring their toy trains to be displayed in the window.

“It’s always been a joy to be in downtown Waukesha,” he said. “I think downtown Waukesha is still a gem.”

At 57 years of age, Olson said he has lived in Waukesha for about 50 of those years. He and his siblings have also worked nearly their whole lives at the hardware store, making it a hard process to move on from.

“We’ve been through the good times and the bad times,” he said.

As the store shelves grew a little more bare Friday, Olson sat in the upstairs office surrounded by history of the business, from old photos to his grandma’s Brownie camera.

Now, Art and Jim will be onto the next phase of their lives which will be finding a job. If anyone is looking for a knowledgeable hardware store man, Art said he and Jim are your guys.