Giving over $1M: Ace Hardware named Yampa Valley Business Philanthropist of the Year

Ace's Bridget Kelly and Marc Swanson hold up a sign after being presented with the honor of being named the 2019 Business Philanthropist of the Year from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Steamboat Springs hardware store with a soft spot for supporting local nonprofits has been awarded the Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s Business Philanthropist of the Year award.

Over the last 36 years, the family who owns Ace Hardware in Steamboat has donated more than $1 million to organizations in the Yampa Valley, according to the store’s current co-owner, Marc Swanson.

“We have tried to do our part to give back to the community where we can,” Swanson said, who described the award as an incredible honor. 

His father, Denny, and uncle, Wayne, started the family business in 1984, back when it was called True Value Hardware. In 2005, the store moved to the Curve Plaza and reopened as Ace Hardware. Despite those changes, the Swanson family kept their commitment to local philanthropy. 

Every year, Ace makes direct contributions to help causes in the area. In 2019, the business donated $79,000, according to store manager Bridget Kelly. On top of the monetary donations, the store contributes thousands of dollars worth of in-store products to organizations. In the summer, nonprofits have the opportunity to raise additional funds through hot dog sales in the front of the store. Ace donates all of the materials and allows the organizations to keep all of the proceeds, according to Kelly.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Swanson recognized an urgent need in the community for the nonprofits grappling with the economic fallout of the crisis. Since then, his business has given an extra $10,000 in direct and in-store donations to four organizations: LiftUp of Routt County, Mind Springs Health, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide and Advocates of Routt County. 

“It shows how much they understand the community and how much they understand the needs here,” Lisel Petis, executive director of Advocates, said of Ace’s recent donation.

What impresses Petis is how modest the business has been about its extensive philanthropy. Rather than make a big show of the donations, Swanson has made such philanthropy seem like just a natural part of doing business in a small town he cares about. It was a legacy his father and uncle started but one that Swanson and his brother, Grant, committed to continuing.

“We never even talked about it. We just knew we were going to continue doing what this business has always been doing,” Swanson said.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Ace is not allowed to continue its hot dog fundraisers this summer, according to Kelly, the store manager.

“We are trying to figure out other ways to support organizations,” she added. 

Despite the challenges of working under the restrictions of the pandemic, from wearing face masks during shifts to limiting the number of customers in the store, Kelly said employees have remained positive and continue to imbue the business with the cozy friendliness of a neighborhood hardware store. 

“This situation we currently in has really demonstrated the amazing group of people who work here,” Kelly said. “It’s been rally amazing to see how everyone comes together.”

This is the second award the Yampa Valley Community Foundation has announced in this year’s Celebration of Philanthropy, an annual event since 1998. Maddie Craigen, a recent Steamboat Springs High School graduate, received the Youth Philanthropist of the Year award. The winner of the Individual Philanthropist of the Year will be announced next week. 

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.