WHEATLAND – Wheatland Ace Hardware manager Ken Kriebel wanted to accomplish two things this summer. He wanted to finish a building project for a new barbecue center within the store and he wanted to raise money for local firefighters.
Kriebel managed to accomplish both goals Aug. 28 as the Wheatland Ace Hardware Grilling Room Grand Opening & Grilling Event went forth from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. also including the Wheatland Police Department.
The festivities centered around the outside grills that sent a heavenly aroma wafting into the neighborhood. The Wheatland Fire Department prepared hamburgers and bratwurst provided by Wyoming Pure who partnered with Ace Hardware for the event. Wheatland police officer Brad Otte, representing the Wheatland Police Department was also on hand giving child car seat safety tips.
“Gary Bjorklund (Ace Hardware store owner) and I have been talking about this for over two years,” said Kriebel. “We used to have all the grilling over in the grass, and so in the summer we have all our grills there and come fall, we had to transition everything out to move Christmas in. The cost we spend on labor, having people move it twice a year, it adds up.”
Bjorklund and Kriebel decided that a dedicated room for all things barbecue would be a win-win situation for both the store and for the general public who could find anything they needed when it comes to barbecue.
“We ended up probably two months behind schedule in creating this,” Kriebel said. “That blizzard in March was the first domino of delaying the process. We were about to break ground when that storm hit. It’s been a little bit of a headache here and there.”
Kriebel said that they have been trying to work with the fire department for about two years to raise money for them. The event Saturday raised $1700 and Kriebel estimates that there were close to 500 people that came out to help support the fire department.
“We were planning on being a part of their open house in 2020, and then COVID hit,” Kriebel said. “We moved through the summer last year thinking we could get to a point to maybe do a grilling fundraiser. Then we thought they were going to be able to do an open house this year, and I’m not sure if it was COVID or weather, but they didn’t have it.”
Ultimately, with the moving ahead with the new grilling addition, Bjorkland and Kriebel decided to combine things on the “to do” list.
“We partnered with Wyoming Pure on this event so that way we can get them recognition so people can try their products here,” said Kriebel. “I’m just asking for a donation for the Wheatland Fire Department. I have five firefighters helping with the grilling today. I bought about 600 burgers and 100 brats.”
As for the event occurring during the Green Harvest Festival, Kriebel said that it was just “dumb luck” and he picked the date before he knew about all the other activities that were going on in Wheatland Aug. 28.
“The timing all just lined up,” Kriebel said. “People could go from the Fly-In to the parade, to us here at the barbecue and then to the salsa contest and then to the bowling alley. I think it’s a win for the community as a whole because we are all staggered.”
Gary and Dorothy Bjorklund opened the Ace Hardware store in Wheatland in 2002 and the business has grown by leaps and bounds ever since. From washers to widgets, Ace Hardware can either get you to the correct aisle where you need to go, or they order from their catalogue supply and get expedient deliveries for the specialty items you may need.
“Our customer service sets us apart from all the others,” said Kriebel. “You can buy anything, anywhere but you can’t buy service.”
“We are now a destination center for all things barbecue,” Kriebel said. “There are more than just grills and charcoal. There are sauces, rubs, accessories. You name it, it can be found here.”