Kephart Ace Hardware has survived the Great Depression, a 1936 flood and 1982 fire.
The Philipsburg store isn’t just a five-generation family business — it’s a lesson in perseverance and reinvention.
The latest evolution of the hardware store was in 2015 when Ace was added to the name. The business wasn’t sold, but rather had contracted Ace as its primary supplier of products.
Joe Kephart Jr. called it a long-term commitment for the 113-year-old business.
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“We’ve bought from all kinds of places,” Kephart said. “The name is just who you are buying from, and Ace is nationally known. They have a very good product, do a lot of advertising on TV and stay on top of the trends for new products. I don’t see any changes in the future.”
While Ace might be the top supplier of Kephart’s products, the store is still family run.
Other family business have also undergone minor tweaks in recent years.
Confer’s Jewelers in Bellefonte was recently sold to Monteca Confer Beisel and her husband Daniel Beisel.
“This is something I’ve understood our future to be for quite a long time,” Daniel Beisel said. “There was never an expectation of anything, but I firmly believe God was directing us this way for a long time. We feel we have a great relationship with the community. I don’t know if calling us an anchor store would be the right term, but we have a great location and recognition.”
The new owners have evolved the business in a short period of time by having a greater emphasis of digital advertising through Facebook and adding more desks of jewelry to their showroom, employees and a big screen TV to keep boyfriends and husbands occupied.
“I have no plans to leave,” Confer Beisel said. “I like being downtown. We’ve outgrown this space, but I’d like to stay here and do our best every day. So, there are no plans for a new location or another store. I’m happy here because Bellefonte has blessed us.”
Harpers in State College opened 92 years ago at a time when chain stores weren’t around.
The third generation family business, operated by Brian Harper, has competed with big box giants in the Centre Region for several decades. The long-standing local business recently changed its location for more space and options for customers, but its core principles have been constant.
The changes less than two years ago, Harper said, were about enhancing the customer experience by better being able to define areas of the store and having more open space.
And while big box stores and Amazon might be a nuisance that each store did not have to think about more than half a century ago, their personal touch can’t be duplicated.
“There’s a trust we’ve gained within the community,” Kephart said. “When you need something fixed we provide great service and knowledge, and we always have. My parents didn’t retire. They still come into work, because they want to. It’s all we’ve ever done.”