Radio Provides “The Kick” For Route 66 Hardware Store


Since 2006, Henkle’s Ace Hardware Store in Webb City, Missouri, has been serving the Joplin area from its prime location on the most iconic highway in the United States: the Mother Road, Route 66. Our weekly advertiser success stories are sponsored by

“We are right where the highways in this mostly rural area funnel into Joplin,” according to Cris Henkle. “So the adage about ‘location, location, location’ was a prime focus when we built our 10,000-square-foot store.” Cris and her husband, John, bring about 60 years of combined hardware store experience to their business, and to the microphone every Saturday morning on Zimmer Radio’s News/Talk KZRG 102.9 FM, 105.9 FM, and 1310 AM, hosting Henkle’s Home Inside & Out.

Radio Ink: What got you interested in doing a radio show?
Henkle: We used to listen all the time to The Happy Handyman show in San Antonio when we lived in Texas. Johnnie Chuoke had a chain of stores called Acme Ace Lumber. He used to do the show with his daughter Trudy LeSage; they played well off of each other, and we always thought that was such a great idea. We always said, “You know, we could do that.”

Every day both of us work in the store as hands-on owners. We know the products, and a lot of times the shows come from what has been happening in the store. We know what people are buying and talking about, so we are current with what our customers are coming to us for. We mentioned our interest in doing a show to Chad Elliot, market manager for Zimmer Radio, and he helped us put the weekly show on the air.

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Radio Ink: Tell us about your show.
Henkle: We have been on the air for about six years. It’s a live Saturday morning show from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. We host it from the store, and we take phone calls. We have had people call us from all over the country and the world because they listen on the Internet. We had a welder from Sydney, Australia, call us.

Another time a guy from Vegas was passing through on his way to Branson, Missouri, and he wanted to stop by to see the plastic table that we sit at and make fun of during the broadcast.

We are informative, but we have fun. I pick on my husband a lot, calling him a “redheaded, left-handed stepchild.” Sometimes his grasp of the English language isn’t the best, so I tease him about some of the words he uses on the air not being real words. He makes up words playing Scrabble. I told the story on the air about him trying to win points with the non-word “megajet.” About a year later, the word was used on the cover of Popular Mechanics magazine, and a lot of people e-mailed that cover to us. That’s one way we know that people are listening to us.

Radio Ink: How else do you know your message is being heard?
Henkle: Our sales have been climbing extremely fast as our show is maturing and our message is getting out there. It’s the number of people that come into the store and talk about how they heard about something on the show. We keep our employees aware of what we have talked about on the show, so they can answer people that ask about a specific topic they heard on the air.

You want people to come into your store and sing your jingle like they do for us, or talk about a commercial they heard. We recently ran a commercial called “Just drive north from the bigboxes,” and people have walked into the store saying they just drove north.

People have heard us talking in a restaurant, and they stop us to tell us they recognize our voices from the radio. People have told us they live next to another hardware store, but they drive to see us because they heard it on the show and they trust what we say.

Radio Ink: What is it about radio that has you using it almost exclusively?
Henkle: For one, we don’t get frequency for our message on TV. It’s too expensive for us to really get our message out enough times, so we were drawn to Zimmer Radio. We have been with Zimmer since we opened the store in 2006. We went for several years where we did a little bit of everything, jumping around to TV and radio. But about four years ago, we really put all of our money into radio with Zimmer.

We use three Zimmer Radio platforms that carry KZRG, which increases the reach of the stations and our message. We get quite a few people from Kansas, which is back behind the store, just west of us. KZRG is where we spend almost all of our money. Probably later this year we will expand to a second station.

Radio Ink: What other forms of advertising do you use?
Henkle: We have a fairly robust social media presence. Facebook is our strongest, but we do some Twitter and Instagram too. We actually have someone who comes in a couple of hours a week and handles our social media.

We have a loyalty program that we run through the Ace Hardware Co-op. We have about 18,000 people signed up for that. The program was started years ago as “Ace, The Helpful Hardware Club,” then it was switched to “Ace Rewards.” The neat thing about it is that customers can get 2 percent of their purchase back as a gift card. Also, club members get any manufacturer’s rebates instantly at the register.

About 65 percent of our transactions are connected to the loyalty card. We are able to translate those transactions into a PIN study that allows us to see what customers have purchased, how often they shop Ace, and where they are from. That information is then used to target them with direct mail, so we’re not just blindly sending out mailers.

Radio Ink: What is it like working with Zimmer?
Henkle: We have used our salesperson, Pam Larimore, forever. She is great, talking with us about the demographics of the different stations, where we can get the best bang for our buck. Chad Elliot has also helped us a lot, especially with the radio show.

Another thing we like about Zimmer is their Brands Formation program. Brands Formation is about not spreading your money around. We have sales reps that come in every day offering $300 to $500 promo deals or a trade for a grill, things like that. But every little bit like that pulls away from our message and dilutes it. Staying on message and frequency is what works.

The Brands Formation program really helped us laser-focus our advertising — getting our message clear in our minds. We get so many great ideas from them. They’re not just taking our money, they are truly helping us come up with a program to grow the store.

Radio Ink: What advice would you offer businesses considering radio?
Henkle: Getting a real clear idea of what your message is, having it written down, and sticking to it all the time is important. Don’t dilute your message by spending your ad dollars all over the place. Choose an avenue and stay with it. You know it’s really easy to think, “I’m not doing TV,” or “I’m not doing this station,” so then you start throwing money in different places, and that dilutes your frequency and people are not hearing you all the time.

Just stick with it. There is a time when you just want to say, “I don’t think it’s working.” But it takes time. People need to get used to hearing you and hearing what you have. We like radio because of the flexibility and the type of audience we can reach. We’ve been doing this for years, so there is a maturity in it for us.

Thank you to Cris Henkle of Henkle’s Ace Hardware,
Thanks to Chad Elliot, market manager, and Pam Larimore, director of sales for Zimmer Radio Inc. for suggesting Henkle’s Ace Hardware

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