Retirement event features ‘Hug Specials’
By TAMMY MALGESINI
Despite not possessing the last name of Smith, a longtime store manager at Smitty’s ACE Hardware, was one of the family, said Randy Smith, who has owned the store with his wife, Tammy, since 2009.
Randy’s parents, Bob and Vickie Smith, hired Mike Hug as the assistant manager in 1992. Several years later, he received a promotion.
“I remember Vickie gave me some business cards and it had ‘manager’ on them,” Hug said with a laugh. “That’s how I knew I was promoted.”
Hug, a 1971 graduate of Imbler High School, came to Hermiston for a job at Down’s Supply. After working there for a handful of years, he worked at Cycletown for a year. His tenure with the Smiths came when they had an opening at Coast to Coast, the store’s franchise name prior to becoming an ACE Hardware store. Hug worked a month shy of 25 years before retiring in December.
The store is hosting a retirement barbecue, inviting customers to come in and wish Hug well. The event will be held Friday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at ACE Hardware, 1845 N. First St., Hermiston. Free hot dogs, soda and cake will be served. In addition, there will be “Hug Specials” throughout the store.
Vickie Smith said Hug jumped right in and was willing to do what was asked of him. His detail-oriented personality, Vickie said, was a great fit in helping run the business.
“Shortly after we hired him, he said, ‘So, what am I supposed to be doing?’ I said, ‘Well, I want you to make Bob’s job easier.’ And, he did that,” Vickie said.
Bob Smith, agreed, that it was great to have Hug as part of their management team. Hug’s past retail experience, work ethic and genuine interest in the success of the store made him a valuable employee, Bob said.
“He was truly a people person,” Tammy Smith said. “He wanted to do right by the people, whether it was the store staff, the customers or whoever he came in contact with.”
Another longtime employee, Carla Hoyt, human resources and floor manager, worked with Hug throughout the years. She said he took time to train and work individually with new employees to ensure the shopping experience for customers was a positive one.
Hoyt said Hug’s commitment to the company overflowed into the community. She said he placed genuine importance on donation requests from community organizations. In addition, she said Hug participated in community activities such as the Cowboy Breakfast, Hermiston Rotary and Relay for Life.
Hug said the Hermiston community has been a great place to live. He’s impressed with how the business community, farmers and individuals pull together for the greater good.
“I’ve just enjoyed being a part of that,” he said.
As far as retirement, Hug has enjoyed spending time with a pair of granddaughters. In addition, he enjoys golfing and is looking forward to camping and four-wheeling in the mountains.
Bob and Randy recalled fishing over the years with Hug. One trip in particular, Bob said Hug taught them how to catch kokanee on Wallowa Lake.
“He was part of our family,” Vickie reiterated. “We worked together a long time. And we’ve been friends — it was more than him just working for us.”