Over the course of a year, Fleet Farm’s exterior and interior has been transformed.
The local store went from 29,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet, making the expanded store four times the size it was, said Store Manager Randy Paur.
“It’s a wonderful new facility now,” he said.
The store’s expansion and remodeling project is the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Grand Facelift Award winner.
Fleet Farm received the award on Tuesday, Jan. 28, during the Chamber’s annual awards program, which was held at the Waupaca Ale House.
“We’re excited, pleased and very honored to win an ward like that,” Paur said. “We did this to take care of our customers. It was a long time coming.”
Paur continues to hear positive comments about the project.
“It’s wonderful and rewarding to hear customers’ comments,” he said.
In November 2011 officials from Fleet Farm announced plans to expand the Waupaca store.
As much as possible, Fleet Farm wanted to eliminate “not available in Waupaca,” Paur said.
Construction began in April 2012 and was completed a year later.
“It was quite a project,” said Paur, who has been the manager of the Waupaca store for seven years.
While construction was under way, the store stayed open, which was challenging.
Even the parking lot had to be torn up, and Paur said customers were understanding and patient throughout the construction period.
“The old store had 33 trailers with back stock in them. Now, for the most part, it’s all inside,” he said. “We had to move those 33 trailers twice during the project.”
As the new store grew closer to being completed, customers often peaked behind the curtain separating the old and new spaces and gave the new space a “thumbs up,” Paur said.
In fact, Paur remembers one particular customer visiting the store and buying a 2-by-4 just so he could get out in the yard and see it.
The store’s new yard is concrete. The old yard was about one-fourth asphalt with the rest sand and gravel, he said.
Fleet Farm features new lighting, siding, plumbing, heating and electric.
During the last two weeks of December 2012, the old store remained open while fixtures were being built and set up in the new store, Paur said.
During the first week of January 2013, samples of all the products were moved into the new store.
“On Jan. 21, we closed the old store and opened the new store. That was a very proud day and a very happy day,” he said. “Then, we emptied the old store.”
The contractors ripped out the checkout lanes, fixtures and restrooms in the old store.
“Basically, we stripped it down to the bare walls and finished the old store,” Paur said.
He said about 80 feet of an old wall is left from the old store. “But, we painted it, so you can’t tell,” he said.
Paur said the new Sporting Goods Department has roughly about one-half of what the old store’s total square footage was.
“Clothing was tiny (in the old store). It gained a big chunk, too,” he said. “Obviously, we’re able to carry a lot of things we couldn’t before.”
The expansion project also resulted in the need for more employees.
“We added 10 full-time positions and another 20 to 25 part-time positions,” Paur said.
The project also involved many local contractors and included the property being annexed into the city of Waupaca.
“We went from well and septic to city sewer and water,” he said. “Working with the city went well. There was a great sense of cooperation with everyone.”
For Paur, it was fun arriving at work each day and watching the progress of the project.
When customers told him, “It’s about time,” he always responded, “You’re right.”