Officials in Loomis, Calif., don't want to lose Homewood Lumber, whose taxes account for about 9% of that town's annual general fund. So they support Homewood's plan to relocate its yard–at a cost to the dealer of between $5 million and $6 million–to a nearby 8.8-acre site on which this pro dealer would construct 38,800 square feet of covered space that includes a door shop, a warehouse, and Homewood's offices. Less enthusiastic, though, are some local homeowners who don't want to live near a lumberyard.

"This is reality today," says Homewood president Hamid Noorani, who has been through several public hearings. "The challenge of relocating something this size that has more character is to convey that we're not going to be an old, dirty lumberyard." He's reasonably confident the project will ultimately be approved, but groundbreaking for the yard is still several months away.

Hills Flat Lumber needed to excavate 130,000 yards of dirt to level the site of its new 5-acre yard. It includes a showroom that's more than seven times larger than its old store, with four times the outdoor covered space and 168 parking slots versus 20 at its old site. NIMBYism (short for "not in my backyard") comes with the territory when dealers relocate their yards–usually onto larger and more visible sites–as do the usual headaches that land development and zoning pose. But too frequently, say experts, dealers look internally for solutions, as well as for design and construction ideas, instead of seeking experience and fresh insight from consultants. "We say to those dealers, 'Do you pull your own teeth to avoid going to the dentist?' Do what you do well, but hire a professional," says Rick Hollenkamp, vice president with Minneapolis-based general contractor Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. History tells him that dealers take twice as long and spend one-third more when they fly solo on relocation projects.

More Room, More Sales

Even under ideal circumstances, yard relocation is an expensive and lengthy exercise, which is why most dealers move only out of necessity. Hills Flat Lumber, which has been in Grass Valley, Calif., since 1921, started thinking about relocating three years ago after it lost several parking spaces and one of its exits to the construction of a roundabout at a nearby freeway off-ramp. Hills Flat needed breathing room anyway, as it was handling 350 to 480 transactions per day out of a yard with only 20 parking spots. So on April 1, it moved into a new location on more than 5 acres that includes a 30,500-square-foot showroom (from 4,000 square feet at its old yard), 14,400 square feet of office space (from 1,000), 168 parking slots, and 40,000 square feet of covered area (from 10,000) under which all of its lumber is stored.

Lampert Yards of St. Paul, Minn., has relocated three yards over the past two years, each time because the older yard had reached its sales capacity, says COO Bob Egan. When Lampert moved its 2-acre yard in North Branch, Minn., to a 7-acre location, it expanded its cabinet department and added a rental center. Lampert spends $2 million to $4 million per relocation, and expects its new digs to generate 20% to 40% more business in its first year.

In May, Sparr Building and Farm Supply moved its branch in Wildwood, Fla.–a 4,000-square-foot store on 10 acres–to a 30-acre site with 80,000 square feet under roof, including a 30,000-square-foot retail store, 30,000-square-foot warehouse with eight bays, and a drive-through lumberyard. When asked how much this relocation costs, Sparr's co-owner Sam Howard laughs. "I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I said that number out loud." Still, the expense will be worth it if, as Howard predicts, the new location produces half of Sparr's total annual revenue (it operates two other yards) after its first year.

Accepting a Helping Hand

Dealers say relocations are preferable to remodels because they offer a cleaner slate, especially if design improvements lead to a more-efficient flow of products and customers (see "Five Relocation Tips," page 52). Several dealers contacted for this article say they are installing lumber Auto-Stak systems for the first time in their new locations. Egan adds that "you can pick up real labor efficiencies" by moving into a larger yard that's organized so it doesn't require more employees.

Three of the 8.8 acres in Loomis, Calif., that Homewood Lumber has purchased for its yard relocation (top and bottom) are within a floodway, prompting Homewood president Hamid Noorani to consult with a biologist and the Army Corps of Engineers on the plans for this project. But relocations can be more complicated when land development and site-use issues rear their heads. Kraus-Anderson's Hollenkamp points to one client that shelled out $2.5 million for soil preparation alone. Hills Flat Lumber removed 130,000 yards of dirt from the top of a mountain to grade the site on which its new yard sits. Its relocation took 11 months from groundbreaking to completion at a cost of around $10 million, according to owner Jeff Pardini.

On March 3, True Value Home Center in Oakhurst, Calif., officially held the grand opening for a 30,000-square-foot retail store that it relocated from a 15-year-old, 11,000-square-foot store in a strip mall. But True Value developed only half of this 6-acre site because it's zoned for retail hardware and needed a variance for an outside lumberyard. "The wheels are in motion for that," says general manager Alan Bryant, who's playing beat the clock to get that yard up before houses start being built on land behind the store that's earmarked for residential development.

Experts say dealers need consultants who can anticipate such obstacles. Rick Hogue, vice president of marketing for Indianapolis-based Krauter Storage Systems, which provides store design, architectural, engineering, and planning services for rack-supported buildings, explains that dealers often aren't familiar enough with building codes to know, for example, when retention ponds are required for yards or that enclosed structures larger than 12,000 square feet need sprinkler systems.

Signage was part of the plan for Sparr Building and Farm Supply's relocated yard in Wildwood, Fla.. Before the soft opening, Sparr's vendors set up trailers filled with merchandise, which helped this dealer transfer inventory from one location to the other without disrupting its business. While Pardini acted as his own general contractor during Hills Flat Lumber's relocation, few dealers go it completely alone. Three of the acres that Homewood Lumber wants to move onto are within a floodway, so Noorani has huddled with a biologist and the Army Corps of Engineers. Lampert retains architects and engineers to draw up construction and site plans that state and local zoning laws require, says Kent Chambard, this dealer's building products and fleet coordinator, who also supervises relocations.

Many pro dealers also turn to their buying groups to guide them through relocations. (Krauter has a strategic alliance with Ace Hardware Corp.) The day after Triple-A Building Center acquired a competitor's location in Messina, N.Y., Do it Best's retail development rep, Al Hall, was on the scene. One week later, the co-op's store design consultant, Mike Robertson, arrived. By relocating onto that 10-acre location, which had a 40,000-square-foot store, Triple-A was able to expand its home décor and flooring departments and increase its kitchen department tenfold, says owner Robert Ashley, who spent $550,000 remodeling that store.

The role co-ops and other suppliers play in dealers' relocations has made transporting inventory painless. Sparr planned to start stocking its new location in Wildwood about a week before its May 21 soft opening, and vendors volunteered to place tractor trailers filled with merchandise on premises to abet that effort.

Manufacturers are producing a variety of stacking systems designed to meet particular needs. Shown here are Krauter Storage Systems' pallet rack drive-through building for sheet goods, a single-faced "L" cantilever shed, a 40-foot-wide "T" shed, and a cantilever drive "T" building. True Value Home Center's Bryant says that his company used planograms supplied by its co-op to determine which "A" and "B" items to transport from the older store; it moved about 80% in one weekend and liquidated the rest. "It was all about planning for us," says Bryant. And to make sure customers followed the store to its new location, True Value devised an ad campaign whose tagline "30 seconds away" reminded them that the new and the old are closer than they might have thought.

–John Caulfield is a contributing editor for ProSales.