Come get your kicks on Route 66, the song popularized by Nat King Cole promises. Ganahl Lumber definitely got some kicks when it opened its new Pasadena, Calif., facility on the famous road, but they weren’t the joyful kind that the song embodied.
The California dealer’s designs for its new facility—on the site of two car dealerships that front Colorado Boulevard, part of old Route 66—took more than a few kicks from the city and the local historical society. From debates over the highway sign (which sparked discussions over size, height, location, graphics, and going illuminated vs. non), to a second-floor parking ramp (a rebuild was required even though it had served the car dealership since the 1960s), to the design of the buildings themselves, compromises had to be hammered out with local agencies that weren’t too sure they wanted a lumberyard on the Rose Bowl city’s main drag.
The auto dealership buildings that came with the four-acre parcel on Colorado Boulevard that Ganahl bought in 2010 were not exactly ideal for transforming into a lumberyard. But the property was just big enough for the new yard’s needs, and it had great access to the freeway.
Because the yard faces the pedestrian-friendly main thoroughfare for Pasadena, the city demanded setbacks. It also wanted the buildings to retain their mid-century look, which featured a lot of glass and steel.
“This was not the most cost-effective way to build, and [the city] didn’t cut us a lot of breaks,” says Pete Meichtry, Ganahl’s vice president of purchasing and advertising. “But we made it work. The bonus is that it’s beautiful and there is nothing like it for a lumberyard in Southern California.”
Company owners Peter and John Ganahl Jr., construction manager Patrick Ganahl (Peter and John’s youngest brother), and architect Dale Brown of the local firm Onyx worked hard to repurpose the buildings to fit both the design requirements of the city and the historical society as well as the specialized needs of the lumberyard.
The original buildings on the 175,000-square-foot property included a Chevrolet dealership and Hummer showroom, service bays, and a 400-square-foot building at the back.
The two main buildings lie adjacent to one another separated by a driveway that draws a line down the center of the property. An old underground river runs beneath that driveway, and regulations did not permit any structures to be built over it. That being the case, the Ganahls worked with the buildings and layout of the original property.
The service bays were repurposed into a drive-through shed and covered material storage. To comply with the city’s requirement for parking spaces, Ganahl was able to use the second story above one of the service bays for additional parking.
The old Chevy dealership was razed except for one wall; that area now serves as the yard’s new retail store and sales office. The company’s original plans for that building included a second floor, says Meichtry, but the city nixed that second story, so the plans were reworked.
The former Hummer showroom next door with its curved roof is now the dealer’s new door and window showroom. Ganahl ended up adding a mezzanine with conference rooms, while the main level features door and window vignettes in the three dominant styles of southern California architecture: Craftsman, mid-century modern, and Spanish colonial. “It is all designed to impress, inspire, and invoke desire,” says Meichtry.
The main buildings are landscaped using drought-tolerant native plants, gravel mulches, and boulders. The landscaping helped meet the city’s requirements for permeable surfaces.
Non-permeable outdoor spaces are concrete, which costs 30% to 40% more than asphal, Meichtry says, but it wears better and lasts longer.
Inside and out, nothing was left to chance. “We spent a year figuring out the product mix, and how to store it and how to display it,” says Meichtry. “Most companies throw [stuff] in a pile or a bin and they are done.”
Inside the retail facility, there are long, straight aisles, good sight lines, clear signage, and plenty of natural light, thanks to over 60 Solatube light tunnels. Vertical racking is used extensively throughout the lumberyard to expand storage capabilities.
The floors are polished concrete, a choice driven by its lower maintenance costs compared to the vinyl flooring used in other Ganahl locations. “It’s worked out real well, and we don’t have to have it cleaned as often, and it holds up better,” says Meichtry.
The dealer didn’t disrupt the flow of the layout by corraling power tools in a tool crib (to cut down on theft) like big-box stores do. Security concerns are met by positioning the power tools near the sales area and by adding extra cameras. In fact, there are about 100 cameras spread throughout the facility—”anywhere we could legally put one, we did,” Meichtry says.
There’s also a hospitality center for customers next to the sales counter with a waist-high table, computers, paper, telephones, coffee machine, and a refrigerator stocked with bottled water.
Ganahl’s struggles in Pasadena have not gone unrewarded. Creating a budget for the new yard based on sales figures from the dealer’s Costa Mesa operation, which serves a comparable demographic, Meichtry says: “We felt we’d break even after 12 months, and we did it in five. We had estimated sales of $2 million for 12 months and it happened after six.”