Owenhouse Ace Hardware – The Helpful Place Since 1879
For almost 140 years, Bozeman residents have trusted the folks at Owenhouse Ace Hardware to provide them with everything from buggies, wagons, and plows to modern tools, appliances, and lawn mowers.
A valuable and integral part of the Bozeman community and surrounding areas, Owenhouse has survived the tenure of time, from the days of hand labor and foot travel to modern tools and motorized transportation. Evolving from a farm supply store to a full-service hardware store, the business continues to operate on its long standing reputation of providing quality products and great service, before and after the sale. This tradition has garnered it the phrase heard lovingly among locals: “Ace is the place.”
Opened in 1879 by Mr. Frank Benepe and Mr. Davidson, the store focused mainly on providing farm supplies like buggies, wagons, harnesses, hay, and grain. In 1890, saddle maker Mr. E. J. Owenhouse purchased an interest in the business, then called Benepe-Owenhouse Hardware, where he would work for nearly three decades.
In 1905, the store set up shop at the corner of Willson and Main (where Chalet Sports is now located). The words “Benepe,” and “Agricultural Implements” are still just visible on the west side of the building. The business eventually moved to the present location at 36 East Main. Over the years, the building has been modernized and expanded, including the transition of the carriage and auto shop into the current bike repair shop, Owenhouse Cycling.
To increase their national buying power and remain competitive, Owenhouse joined a national co-op of independent hardware store owners in 1964, a move to help this locally-owned business compete with the influx of larger chains.
The history of ownership here is one of long tenures. Current owner Larry Bowman purchased an interest in the business in 1975 from the owners at that time, Louis Spain Sr., Lou Spain and Larry’s father-in-law Bud Williamson. Soon afterwards, he was joined by Phil Adams, who had an ownership interest from 1976 until 2000. Louis Spain Sr. retired in 1988 and Lou Spain in 2003. Continuing the store’s tradition of family operations, Larry’s son Eric is currently active in the business.
In 1982, Owenhouse purchased the building next door at 26 East Main, formerly housing Woolworth’s and later Coast to Coast. The building was extensively remodeled, creating the space where the current hardware section of the store resides.
As business continued to grow, Owenhouse Ace Hardware opened a second store in 2008 on the west side of town, next to the Gallatin Valley Mall, at 8695 Huffine Lane. The building may be new, but the business continues to be operated based upon the same traditions and values that brought the original store its longevity and success.
In a 1955 booklet entitled, “Story of Owenhouse Hardware Company,” it stated that “business is more than mere business; it is a form of expressing the good life.” As one of Montana’s longest-run businesses and an icon of Historic Downtown Bozeman, this philosophy has certainly rung true.
Generations of families have patronized the store throughout the years, all enjoying the same friendly attitude and knowledgeable, personalized service. With almost 140 years under its belt and many years to come, there is certainly promise that “Ace will always be the place.”
From bike repair to shelving and storage, the staff at Owenhouse Ace Hardware is ready to assist you with all of your hardware and home improvement needs. Find them in Historic Downtown Bozeman at 36 East Main Street or on the west side of Bozeman at 8695 Huffine Lane.
View more images from Owenhouse’s history:
*This article, written by Alison Grey, is courtesy of the Montana Historian Magazine.