A Portland hardware wholesaler that has been in operation for more than 175 years will close its distribution division in 2019.

Emery-Waterhouse will lay off roughly 100 warehouse workers as part of a restructuring by parent company Ace Hardware. The company will leave the 240,000-square-foot warehouse it leases at 7 Rand Road and offer employees severance packages, employment transition help and possible transfers, Steve Frawley, president and CEO of Emery-Waterhouse, said in an interview Friday.

Warehouse employees will continue to work at the company until early 2019, he said.

“We wanted to give people as much notice as possible,” Frawley said. “They will continue to have jobs so they can plan out their future.”

The company supplies products such as hardware, tools and paint to independent hardware stores and lumber yards in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Its offices, along with 70-80 administrative and sales employees, will remain in Portland “for the foreseeable future,” Frawley said.

“A lot of the functions remain; it is really a distribution strategy,” he said.

On Thursday, Ace announced it was consolidating its East Coast retail support network with a new 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania, and an expanded facility in Wilton, New York.

As part of its restructuring. Ace will close four smaller distribution centers, including the Emery-Waterhouse operation in Portland and one in Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Ace is the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the world, and has more than 5,000 hardware stores. It is headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois.

In a statement, Ace said the changes to its distribution network would not alter the strategic direction of Emery Jensen Distribution, the company’s national wholesale operation, which encompasses Jensen Distribution on the West Coast and Emery-Waterhouse on the East Coast.

“Ace will continue to grow its wholesale business with streamlined distribution and even greater strength,” Mark Spanswick, president and general manager of Emery Jensen Distribution, said in a statement.

Consolidating into large-scale distribution centers will allow the company to provide more products for its customers, Frawley said. Faced with competition from online retailers and big-box stores, the company needs to provide a deeper assortment of goods that it cannot do now because of size limitations at its current warehouses, he added.

“The ability to make more products available is really critical in this instant gratification world,” Frawley said. “Our distribution centers aren’t large enough and don’t have enough modernization.”

With its Portland warehouse, the company has about 40,000 items available, while the new Pennsylvania distribution center will be able to hold 95,000, Frawley said.

“Our customers will double their options,” he said.

Emery-Waterhouse started as a single hardware store in Portland in 1842. It was sold to Ace Hardware in 2014, after being owned by the same family for more than 80 years.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

pmcguire@pressherald.com

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