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Boss move: Local business owners give company to their employees

Posted at 11:22 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 23:27:37-04

BALTIMORE — A local business is giving back to its employees in a big way.

The founders of A Few Cool Hardware Stores, which owns Federal Hill Ace Hardware and 12 others in the DMV, announced it will give their employees ownership of their business.

Marc Friedman and Gina Schaefer started an employee stock organization plan for their 250 plus employees, setting up a trust, which will give them shares of the company.

“They were excited,” Schaefer said.

The process has already started, Schaefer said.

Nearly 200 employees now own 30 percent of the company.

“An employee is eligible after they worked with us for 1,000 hours in one year. So, right now we have about 250, 260 employees 160 of them qualify,” Schaefer said.

She said their employees are the engine that makes the business run. Schaefer said she’s proud to give back to people who have given her so much.

“What I think is cool. I want to walk in and have a cashier, a delivery driver or someone making keys, say I'm an owner of this company. To me that’s the life changing piece," she said. "The money is definitely going to be there. I’m super excited about that to happen—generational wealth. All of the things in the news now about gender inequality [and] racial inequality…all of that stuff played into this decision for Marc and I. What small part can we as a little business play in helping alleviate some of those societal issues right now.”

Jennie Beecher has worked for their federal location for three years.

“I actually make the birthday cakes for everybody here,” she said.

She loves the place. The customers have become her friends and her co-workers are more like family.

“We care about one another,” she said.

She said she’s put her all into the store.

“I’ve always treated like it’s my own business. That’s just how I was raised,” she said.

And now it is.

She said it’s amazing for a woman like her who is nearing retirement.

“To now know I actually am part owner, it’s like wow,” she said.

The process to the employees’ path to ownership will be lengthy, but Schaefer hopes to give the employees 100 percent ownership within the next 10 years.