Most local family-owned shops are effectively Ace or one of the other franchises. While not all the inventory comes from the franchiser, it's quality is usually lower to be at the same retail price. Lowes seems to have higher quality, higher-priced products consistently, but it seems to miss the balance on the value scale.
I bought a Husky tool cabinet last year for under $300, where the comparable product from Lowes was $700. Lowes was hands-down better in terms of construction quality, design, and features... but for my needs the cost wasn't warranted.
Know when you want/need quality, and know when you need to get the job done. The product is the key though, not the merchant.