Hardware store growing, moving

Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2001

The Alaska Industrial Hardware store on North Willow Street in Kenai will be moving to roomier digs in the near future.

Construction is under way on Bridge Access Road for a new larger store scheduled to open sometime in February. AIH will grow to more than four times its size, moving from the current 6,500 square feet to a spacious 28,000 square feet upon opening.

"We're pretty limited," said Store Manager Randy Peck of the store's present location. "As far as I know, it's because of steady increase in business. We just outgrew it."

AIH General Manager Mike Kangas said the current location isn't big enough for the type of inventory the store would like to move.

"The problem we have now," Kangas said, "is we don't have the room to stock all of the products we offer. Our existing store is not retail-conducive."

The current store on North Willow Street in Kenai has aisles stacked with as much merchandise as shelves can hold. And many of the larger items -- such as ladders, hand trucks, power tools, dollies and fence posts -- are stocked either in the back of the store or outside the store. Even more has to be ordered from a main distribution center in Anchorage.

"We do lot of back orders," Peck said. "They are mainly larger equipment for a lot of the oil companies. They usually only take a couple of days."

But the new store, Kangas said, will change the need to order as many things from outside the store as well as the need to store things in the elements.

"Items in the cage will be out of the weather," Peck said. "That stuff takes a beating from people chipping it out of the ice. People will be able to check out more of our merchandise without having to go out in the rain."

The stock area behind the counter at the current store will no longer hold the larger tools. Those items that are now out of reach of customers will be available for the once-over customers might need to make purchasing decisions.

"If someone wants to buy a Delta uni-saw, he can look at it and touch it before he takes it home," Kangas said.

Kangas said he expects an increase in business, because of the larger store.

"Sales should increase easily," he said. "When you increase the store four-fold, you can expect an increase in sales."

To accommodate the growth, the new building will be equipped with two sunken loading bays that can receive stock from larger tractor-trailers as well as an overhead loading bay that will handle smaller cargo trucks.

"We'll be able to handle more inventory," Peck said.

Kangas said there should be no effect on competition in the area. Spenard Builders Supply serves the Soldotna and Kenai area in a similar capacity to AIH, but Kangas believes the new store will help both businesses.

"We go head to head in almost every market," Kangas said. "I feel that we complement each other. They're a lumber store. We're a hardware store."

Soldotna Spenard branch manager Rick Abbott agreed.

"In the past they have really complemented our business," Abbott said. "The things that they carry, we don't carry. It's been a good competitor relationship, and they are a good business for the community."

Both Kangas and Peck expect the new store to help change the perception people have of AIH.

"We have a lot of customers that see the word 'industrial' and they think we cater to the oil industry," Peck said. "We've got stuff to offer to everybody. In the new store, we'll have more of it on display."

"AIH is a handyman's department store," Kangas said. "I anticipate an influx of do-it-yourselfers."



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