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Fullerton getting settled into state-of-art facilities

Over two years' worth of preparations have paid off for Fullerton Building Center, which is now home at a new location southeast of Ellsworth along Hwy. 10.

The company has grown its local presence with state-of-the-art facilities on a nearly nine-acre parcel across from Plummer Concrete. Manager Brad Lippert said Thursday the store-and-office portion of the new complex alone is almost three times larger than the structure it replaced in the village's east end.

"We have a lot more products here," Lippert said, referring to everything from shop vacs to barbecue grills, besides the greatly increased depth in plumbing and electrical items.

People's expectations have changed about what a building center should offer since Fullerton's bought an old lumber warehouse on Morse Street in 1931 and its latest local reincarnation gives the business the room to fulfill their wants and needs. The new store contains 9,600 square feet of space, he said, as compared to 3,400 square feet inside its predecessor. Additionally, there's 15,000 square feet of lumber storage area attached to the back of the new quarters, plus 70-by-180-feet more in a separate building behind.

Lumber shipped by semi-tractor-trailers can now be unloaded from a loading dock directly into the building, he said. Previously, two semi-loads often sat in the former place's parking lot. Parking availability, which suffered as a result (15 cars on a "good day"), has expanded to beyond 40 spaces on two sides of the replacement outlet.

"We used to have to unload the semis in the street," Lippert said.

Eighty percent of the outdoor footprint has been surfaced, he said, with gravel only surrounding timber storage on the southeast side. Moreover, everything in the yard is behind the gate, with fencing all around.

Inside, the store's ceiling is 24-feet tall, above sidewalls 16-feet high, giving an "open and airy" feeling, he said. Just to the right past the main front entrance is a cabinetry display virtually non-existent in the former store. A kitchen set-up features appliances loaned by Pierce-Pepin Cooperative Services.

To the left is a paint display and the first of 13 aisles measuring 16 feet deep, housing the hardware portion, adjacent to the main walk-through. The manager said Do-It-Best, the store's hardware supplier, sent two-and-a-half semi loads of merchandise for shelving directly to the new site before anything was moved from the old one. Three representatives from that company spent two days arranging placement of such hardware staples as assortment packs.

About midway back past the door and window display to the right is a service counter fronting more of the business' inventory. Lippert's and other offices line the showroom wall on the right side beyond that, while a hallway to the right leads to the yard entrance, where another service counter is stationed. A third entrance is straight back from the main walk-through.

The facility features a computerized inventory system and gas heat, Lippert said.

Planning for the new location began in August of 2005, he said. Planners had to meet Department of Natural Resources requirements about the property and have plans approved by the state. An unforeseen development after a groundbreaking event last April involved a series of springs which hadn't been detected on the northeast side of the land. Considerably more drain tile than was originally envisioned became necessary.

Derrick Construction was the contractor on the building project. Lippert said the move from the east end site to the new complex was accomplished over three days in December. A crew of approximately 20 people participated, including the company's owners.

Still family-owned, the firm originated in Mitchell, S.D., in 1882 and now has outlets in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, as well as Wisconsin, he said. The headquarters are in Plymouth, Minn. Recent acquisitions include Bennett of Minneapolis, which has been transformed into the "Remodeler's Choice" division, and an Osceola outfit.

Hours at the new Ellsworth location are 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, he said. A grand opening celebration week is scheduled for April 23-28, culminating on Saturday, April 28, with door prizes and specials during the week plus major attractions and prizes on that Saturday, when extended hours will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. A contractor's night will be held the evening of Thursday, May 3.

The manager said an upturn in the building industry until this past year made remedying the fact Fullerton outgrew its former local facilities possible. During his 12 years here, business volume has increased almost five times.

In planning the new site, company officials relied heavily for input on a survey mailed to the public in late summer of 2005, he said. In conjunction with that survey, five $100 shopping sprees have been given away. Winners are: Tim Lorenz of Ellsworth, Michael MacGregor of Prescott, Jerry Halls of Beldenville, Rosemary Matzek of Ellsworth and Ken Peterson of Ellsworth.

Hours at the new Fullerton Building Center, southeast of Ellsworth on Hwy. 10, are 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.