Leigh Ann Akard, a third-generational owner of Zionsville’s Akard True Value Hardware is bidding farewell to the business and beginning a new chapter in life.
Akard, who is part of the Akard family legacy that has been serving the town for nearly 70 years, sold the hardware store in February to Great Lakes Ace.
“On behalf of my entire family, I want to say thank you, even though those two words seem too small to adequately express our immense gratitude,” Akard said. “We are excited about the new opportunities ahead for our family and have a few ideas in the works. We look forward to our paths continuing to cross with yours as we get ready for the new season.”
Akard said spending more time with her grandchildren and children were among her reasons for selling the business.
“We want to be able to attend their school events and sports,” she said. “As they get older, we want to be active in the things they are active in, and when owning a business, that’s difficult to do.”
Beginning of a legacy
In 1955, Akard’s grandfather, Jacob “J.J.” Akard, a traveling hardware salesman, called the Zionsville Hardware store owner Frank Marque to tell him he wanted to buy the store. With a simple handshake, the sale was made, and the legacy of Akard True Value Hardware began.
“My mom (Marsha Akard) always told me the way the story went is that my grandpa went home, told my grandma he bought the hardware store in Zionsville and that was it, and they moved to Zionsville,” Leigh Ann said.
After her grandfather bought the store, he turned it into a True Value hardware store. The True Value Co. is a wholesaler with more than 4,500 independently owned and operated stores worldwide.
In the late 1970s, Leigh Ann’s father, Steve Akard, purchased the store from his father, J.J., and moved the store from Main Street to Boone Village Shopping Center in Zionsville.
Steve recruited his friend Bill Evans to help manage the store. Evans worked at True Value for 29 years.
“I’ve known Steve for over 50 years. Our kids grew up together,” Evans said. “He came to me and asked me to be one of his managers for a little while, and it ended up that I just stayed there for almost 30 years. The community support for the hardware store has always been there for Steve and his dad and the Akard family.
Leigh Ann said her family expanded the store again in the 1990s.
“We could’ve never grown and thrived the way we have if we had stayed in the Main Street location,” Leigh Ann said. “We took over the old Ben Franklin spot back then.”
Growing up with the store
While growing up around the family-owned store, Leigh Ann said she started learning the ropes from her father as early as high school.
“My dad would come home from work, and I would enter in the orders at night, and he’d pay me $10,” she said. “I learned how to enter the order and still be able to talk to my friends on the telephone.”
Leigh Ann worked at the store throughout high school before attending college.,
“I didn’t think I’d come back, but in 1999 I came back to the store, and I’ve been there ever since,” Leigh Ann said.
After college, Leigh Ann decided to buy into the store and became vice president and co-owner, working alongside her father and a longtime Zionsville High School friend, Joe Hollingsworth, who has managed the store for 20 years.
Carrying on the tradition
As Leigh Ann’s family grew, her children became the four-generation to work at the store.
Two of Leigh Ann’s sons, Spencer Knepp and Anthony Knepp, both have fond memories of the store and the Town of Zionsville.
“If there was one thing I knew while growing up and working at the hardware store was that my mom was driven by community and faith,” Spencer said. “I don’t recall a moment when my mom didn’t know the person walking through the door of the store, and if she didn’t know you, she was going to by the time you left.”
Anthony said he learned at a very young age through his mom the importance of giving back to the people around him.
“My mom’s passion for service throughout her life and leading the hardware store showed me how valuable of a tool small businesses can be to support and improve our local communities,” he said.
A new chapter
Now that a few months have passed since the sale of Akard True Hardware Store, Leigh Ann said she’s had time to process the transition into retirement and to think about what lies ahead for herself and her family.
“With my husband being a first responder with the Zionsville Fire Dept., we would like to work with first responders and grieving families to create a place where everyone can go and have conversations around a campfire for support,” she said. “That’s our next ambition.”
“I am beyond excited for this new adventure for my mom and I can’t wait to see how she will impact the community next,” Spencer said. “We are all in her corner rooting for her in her next big move in life.”