March 31 will be the end of Kenai Supply Inc. and a new beginning for the Kenai branch of Spenard Builders Supply Inc.
Kenai Supply plans to close and liquidate, said company president Kevin Wells. However, Spenard Builders has agreed to buy its store at the intersection of Kalifornsky Beach and Bridge Access roads in Kenai. Spenard Builders plans to upgrade and remerchandise the K-Beach store at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars.
"The whole point of this was the ability to upgrade our Kenai store," said Ed Waite, president of Spenard Builders. "It's small, and it needs some work. We felt this was a great opportunity for us. After we merchandise and set up, we'll move our Kenai store there."
The old Kenai store will close, he said.
Kenai Supply also has stores in Homer, Wasilla and Anchorage and a distribution yard in Birchwood near Eagle River. Spenard Builders and Alaska Pipe and Supply have bought the inventory, shelves, forklifts and equipment from all the stores, Wells said. Alaska Pipe and Supply has bought the Anchorage store, Spenard Builders has bought the Birchwood and K-Beach facilities, and the state is buying the Wasilla store.
The Homer store, which employs about 10 people, will close March 31.
"We're still going to have the building. We're interested in selling or leasing that," Wells said.
The Wasilla store will close later, when the state completes the purchase. The Anchorage site actually includes a plumbing store and a waterworks store, which deals in fire hydrants and underground utilities. Alaska Pipe and Supply has bought the waterworks store as a complete business, Wells said.
Kenai Supply employs 14 or 15 people at the K-Beach store, he said, and about 10 at the company's corporate headquarters at the same site. Waite said he expects Spenard Builders in Kenai will hire 14 members of the K-Beach staff. The K-Beach store will close briefly for the upgrade, he said, but the yard and truss plant will continue to operate.
Statewide, Kenai Supply employs about 90 people.
"We wanted our customers well taken care of, and we wanted our employees well taken care of," Wells said.
Spenard Builders and Alaska Pipe and Supply are strong, established companies, he said, so he is confident there will be no problems. Kenai Supply picked March 31 to close because is when construction-related businesses hire for the busy season. Spenard Builders, Alaska Pipe and Supply and several other companies have offered opportunities to Kenai Supply employees, he said.
"We're confident that all of our people will be given the opportunity to move ahead with the least disruption to their lives," Wells said.
Waite said Spenard Builders is providing its statewide job postings to Kenai Supply employees and allowing them to apply as though they were transferring within Spenard Builders. His company has arranged to conduct job interviews in Homer, Kenai, Birchwood, Wasilla and Anchorage.
Kenai Supply was founded by Wells' parents, Bill and Cleone Wells, who moved to Kenai in 1953 to start a plumbing business. Bill began selling plumbing supplies in the early 1960s to furnish tract homes going in for oil workers. When those were done, business slowed, Kevin said, so his father diversified into lumber, hardware and other products.
Kevin attended Kenai Central High School and graduated from the University of Washington in 1969. Summers, he sold supplies in Anchorage for the family business. After graduating, he opened a store there. Kenai Supply subsequently expanded into Wasilla, Birchwood and Homer and moved its Kenai store to the present K-Beach location.
Bill Wells lived in Kenai until he died in December, and Cleone, now 85, still lives there, Kevin said. He and his brother Keith took over management of the business about 1996. Kevin said they decided to liquidate the business partly because the state plans highway projects that will severely restrict access to the Wasilla store, and partly for reasons connected to estate planning.
Spenard Builders employs more than 600 people statewide and operates a total of 12 Alaska stores from Barrow to Sitka. It is owned by Lanoga Corp., a family-owned business based in Redmond, Wash. Lanoga Corp. operates separate chains of building supply stores in other parts of the United States.
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