A Family Legacy
Akard True Value Has Been Serving Zionsville For More Than 60 Years
Writer: Josh Brown
Photographer: Brian Brosmer
In his younger days, Leigh Ann Akard’s grandfather, Jacob “JJ” Akard, worked for a local hardware store in Sheridan, Indiana before spending some time as a traveling salesman. His dream was to one day make it to the big city of Chicago, and eventually he did. But when space became available for a hardware store on Main Street in Zionsville, he took his tools and built a legacy.
Akard True Value opened in 1955 and has had its doors open ever since. Leigh Ann’s father, Steve, took over before moving the store to its current location at the Boone Village Shopping Center in the late 70s.
Growing up in a hardware store, Leigh Ann has many fond memories of her childhood.
“I remember at the old store, sitting on the paint counter and telling the part-time high school boys about the bicycle I wanted,” she says. “I remember that clear as day. We used to have a toy aisle, and I remember going down that all the time, too. Even when we moved out here to Boone Village, we still sold toys for a while. My parents made me buy my first doll bed and put it on layaway, and I did little odd jobs around the store to earn enough money to buy it.”
Fast forward to today, and Akard True Value is still serving the Zionsville community more than six decades later while remaining family-owned. Leigh Ann co-owns the store with her father and serves as the vice president, while long-time manager, Joe Hollingsworth, manages the day-to-day operations of the store.
“We take this business seriously,” Leigh Ann says. “It is so much more than a hardware store here. I have friends in high school whose kids are now working here. We really get into the community and take care of needs. We don’t have to jump through any corporate hoops. We are very into the community and love taking care of our neighbors.”
Over the years, Akard True Value has supported the Zionsville community in a variety of ways. The store has supported Flagpole for Heroes, Reuse Heart & Sole shoe drive, collecting shoes for those who need them, Blood Drives and backpack drives for students who need school supplies.
Most recently, Leigh Ann, who is a third-generation owner of the store, her dad and the Akard True Value team started the Pop Up Farmers Market this past fall in the Boone Village Shopping Center. When Marsh closed its store, the Akards wanted to make sure the Zionsville community was still able to get their groceries and produce locally, and the idea took off.
That kind of support and Akard’s long-standing relationship with the community recently garnered the store the honor of being named the Zionsville Chamber’s 2017 Business of the Year.
“I am so proud of our team for winning that award,” Leigh Ann says. “Everybody at the hardware store helped us win that award. The lives that we have touched here and the friendships we have made, both with our staff and with our customers, over the years is huge.
“I am proud of the way that we have been able to navigate business in this new era. Every store is trying to be everything to everyone. We are proud that we have stuck to our roots. We are a hardware store and a general store.”
In this day and age of the internet, Akard True Value has certainly evolved over the years to stay up to date with the times. Tool and party rentals continues to be a crucial part of the company’s business. The store utilizes its online presence for sales as well, and Leigh Ann has gotten creative recently with finding ways to draw customers in.
These days, depending on the season, when customers walk into the store they will see the “Front Porch” — an inviting area of the store that has a hometown feel to it with everything from t-shirts and coffee mugs to gift items slightly similar to what you might find at a Cracker Barrel.
“With the internet, we are trying to stay current and relevant,” Leigh Ann says. “Retail is changing and we have to change with the times. We do not assume that just because we turn the lights on and unlock the doors that customers are going to come in. We are still trying to earn their business and be what people need. I am proud of that.”
Sixty years is a long time in business, and it is that family feel to the store that, Leigh Ann says, has kept loyal customers coming back. Seeing familiar faces and people who know your name when you walk in, she says, builds that community aspect even more.
“We jokingly say that we are kind of like the ‘Cheers’ of Zionsville,” Leigh Ann says. “Everybody likes to go somewhere where they are recognized. I am involved in the community and so are our employees. People come here because they’ve had interactions with so many different people, and we try to make it a positive experience each time. We are a small-town family mom-and-pop store. What sets us apart is the service and the people aspect. So many times you go out to the big-box stores and you don’t see the same faces. Many of our staff have been with us for years, which is unheard of in this day and age.”
One thing is for sure, Akard True Value will remain family-owned and continue to be a landmark in Zionsville. Leigh Ann hopes the store’s legacy will speak for itself.
“I hope that Zionsville is a better place because we are here,” Leigh Ann says. “I hope we continue to be here and be a partner in the community. We are trying to be better than we were yesterday, every day.”
Akard True Value is located at 25 Boone Village. You can give them a call at 317-873-5255 or visit them online at akardtruevalue.com.