Ace Hardware has been helping customers with their repair needs for over 90 years. Known for its customer service, the store has won the J.D Power award for “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Home Improvement Retailers” for 10 years in a row.  The moment you enter Bill Wygal’s Ace Hardware store in Martinez, the importance placed on the customer is immediately apparent. Bill Wygal, who owns Bill’s Ace Hardware locations in Martinez, Concord, and Pleasant Hill, is stationed near the entrance, finding out what each new customer wants and directing them to a service person who can help them. He makes sure no customer is overlooked, and the staff is knowledgeable and friendly.

Bill is proud that his store is a certified green business, and an LED lighting retrofit from East Bay Energy Watch  helped the store achieve that goal. Before the retrofit, lighting the large store was a problem. Employees were changing burned out lightbulbs nearly every week, which required using a dolly to reach the high ceilings. Bill also explains that the exorbitant energy cost of the high-wattage bulbs led them to keep certain lights off, leaving sections of the store poorly lit.

Since the lighting retrofit was completed, the store has experienced significant improvements in utility bill costs, energy savings, and the overall appearance of the store. Bill’s Ace Hardware has reduced its energy usage by 39%, and the store’s new LED lights are keeping over 18,000 lbs. of CO2 out of the atmosphere, the equivalent to taking one car off the road for over a year.

These days, Bill’s store is brightly lit for less money: the new lighting is saving an estimated $4,000 per year on utility bills, which means Bill can now afford to turn on all the lights in the store. The new appearance has made a huge difference to both employees and customers. “The look and feel of the store is really modern and bright now,” reports Bill. “It’s so uniform, it’s unreal.”

Bill was also impressed with the ease of working with East Bay Energy Watch. A project manager stopped by, counted the lights, and then brought over a report, all of which required no time or effort from Bill or his staff. “Usually you’re involved in a bureaucracy,” he explained. “I didn’t find there to be any bureaucracy with [East Bay Energy Watch].”

For Bill, participating in a lighting retrofit is a decision he’d recommend to anyone, especially small businesses striving to maintain their personal touch with a lower operating budget. Chain hardware stores such as Home Depot have their own energy and emissions reduction goals, and they have a large budget to implement such goals. Ace Hardware is operated differently. As a retailer’s cooperative, each store is a franchise location run by local small business owners, which means the business does not have the huge budget of larger chain hardware stores.  CESC’s commercial lighting programs help level the playing field so small businesses can be energy efficient, too. Bill is a believer in East Bay Energy Watch: “There’s such a benefit in doing it, and the payback is fast – any business should do it regardless of the rebate.”