BARRE — It hasn’t always been Nelson Ace Hardware, but “Nelson” has always been part of the name of a downtown Barre business that is being honored this year as the “Vermont Family Owned Small Business of the Year.”
“For my staff and myself, it’s humbling to know that we’re getting statewide recognition for what we’re doing here in Barre,” owner Bob Nelson said Thursday when asked about the award that was recently announced by the Small Business Administration.
“We’re all pretty proud,” he said. According to Nelson, that includes his dad, Carroll, who started the business — then Nelson True Value Hardware — in 1983.
That, Nelson said, was the same year he graduated high school, chose to skip college and go to work for his dad — eventually converting what would have been his tuition to the University of Vermont into stock in the family-owned business that he now owns with his wife, Linda, and has expanded three times over the years.
Nelson True Value Hardware became Nelson Ace Hardware in 2000, but Nelson is the name people know.
That isn’t by accident, according to Bob Nelson, who is the latest in a long line of entrepreneurs.
“There’s been a Nelson hawking goods in central Vermont for almost 125 years,” Bob Nelson said.
According to Bob Nelson, his great-grandfather, Milo Algernon Nelson, sold some of the first tractors in the area and his grandfather, Meriden Nelson, sold the first Philco radios from a shop in Montpelier and when he was selling radios he was selling and repairing commercial milking equipment.
Then came Carroll Nelson, who along with brothers, Milo and Kenny, started Nelson Brothers — a housewares and appliance dealer. That family business opened in Montpelier in 1953, expanded to Barre in 1969 where it was located in the building that is now home to Studio Place Arts, and added a Randolph store before closing in 1982.
“I sold my first console television set when I was 12,” recalled Bob Nelson, who said his father eventually decided to roll the dice on hardware in Barre and he’s been growing the business ever since.
It’s in Bob Nelson’s blood.
“Nelson’s doesn’t get to where it is now without my dad, and my grandfather and my great-grandfather,” he said, noting that his father plans to fly home to Vermont for the awards ceremony in June.
“He’s is pretty excited,” Bob Nelson said of his dad. “I guess we all are.”
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