The Grommet, since its founding in 2008, has worked with thousands of inventors, entrepreneurs and small businesses (SMBs) to launch a wide range of brands that might not otherwise see the light of day. Fitbit, IdeaPaint, OtterBox and SodaStream are among the items that were showcased on The Grommet in their early days.
“We’ve both been duking it out for the little guy. Ace [Hardware] has been doing it for 93 years, and we’ve been doing it for just under nine years,” said Jules Pieri, who co-founded The Grommet with Joanne Domeniconi. “There’s a lot of heart and soul and passion for helping people realize their dreams.”
Traditional Hardware retailer Ace, despite controlling ownership, has no plans to change the firm’s strategic direction, and Domeniconi, Pieri and their employees will continue to have some equity ownership of the firm.
“We both stand as strong advocates for the underdog. From the very beginning, we have appreciated our alignment in support for and advancement of the independent maker,” said John Venhuizen, president and CEO of Ace Hardware Corp., in a statement. “Under Ace’s ownership, I believe The Grommet can offer our customers more of that which fuels global economies and makes America special — the unbridled creativity of the local entrepreneur.”
The Grommet’s “Grommets” are specifically selected and curated items featured across 16 categories. To promote those goods, potential customers not only get the specs, but also the story behind the innovation. Only 3 percent of all products submitted and evaluated are launched on the site.
The Grommet and traditional hardware retailer Ace have have worked together before. In 2016, the two business partnered on a pilot called Innovation Incubators that brought a freestanding Grommet display to Ace’s bricks-and-mortar stores.
About 20 products have graduated from the Innovation Incubator program into “the big leagues” and are being stocked in all 5,000 of the hardware store’s locations, according to Pieri.
“It’s a way for us to really expand the opportunities for the companies we work with into a … healthy and long-term relationship with Ace,” Pieri said.
The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.