2021 Beacon Award Winners

  • Beacon Award for Best New Store Under 20,000 sq. ft. — Wood Shed Lumber & Hardware Supply

    By Chris Jensen

    After building numerous regional Pizza Hut restaurants, the Eiserers decided to buy in and they found themselves running 17 of them. But by the spring of 2016 the couple realized that franchisee ownership just didn’t feel right anymore. At the same time, their local lumberyard was for sale and about to be shuttered. Cecil knew that losing it would not only be a big loss for his own company, but a huge loss for their community, too.

    “We didn’t want to lose the lumberyard for the community. We were in the process of ending one deal, so it was good timing,” Cecil explains.

    Cecil and Sharona Eiserer are developing Wood Shed Lumber & Hardware into a strong, sustainable business that can someday be passed on to their kids (from l to r): Cicily, Porter and Novah.
    Cecil and Sharona Eiserer are developing Wood Shed Lumber & Hardware into a strong, sustainable business that can someday be passed on to their kids (from l to r): Cicily, Porter and Novah. »

    Wood Shed Lumber’s new 12,000-square-foot store replaced a tired 2,000-square-foot lumberyard that was on the verge of closing.Wood Shed Lumber’s new 12,000-square-foot store replaced a tired 2,000-square-foot lumberyard that was on the verge of closing.»

    The Eiserers decided to buy the struggling lumberyard. They felt they would need to make some drastic changes to their newly acquired business, because they both strongly believed that Carrollton deserved a modern hardware store and lumberyard experience.

    “We went to the Do it Best market in May 2016 before we owned the business. Everyone there had a smile on their face,” Cecil says.

    Adds Sharona, “When we met the Do it Best family, we were sold—they were welcoming and like a family from the beginning. We were blown away.”

    Cecil and Sharona Eiserer rebuilt their town’s lumberyard to provide a well-stocked, well-merchandised store for the community.
    Cecil and Sharona Eiserer rebuilt their town’s lumberyard to provide a well-stocked, well-merchandised store for the community.»

    Designing the Best Store

    Digging deeper into survey data conducted by Do it Best, Sharona realized there was plenty of interest from DIYers and that the existing 2,000-square-foot store and the accompanying lumberyard were simply too small and uninviting to shoppers.

    They enlisted the help of Do it Best’s Store Design and Retail Performance teams to completely reinvent the business. They boldly reimagined the new Wood Shed Lumber & Hardware Supply, building a brand new 12,000-square-foot retail home improvement store facility from the ground up and turning the existing yard into a full-service, drive-up lumberyard.

    Sharona leads by example to ensure her team of 17 employees helps customers the best they can.
    Sharona leads by example to ensure her team of 17 employees helps customers the best they can.»

    The highly visible paint department has been an integral part of the store’s mission to attract more female customers.
    The highly visible paint department has been an integral part of the store’s mission to attract more female customers.»

    “We told Do it Best we didn’t want the store to be a cookie cutter,” says Sharona, who chose brown, gray and copper hues to make a cohesive color theme throughout the store.

    Wood Shed Lumber & Hardware Supply opened in January 2019 and was an immediate hit with the community.

    From the reclaimed wood accents to the custom scorched enhancements and stain on barn doors throughout the store, Cecil’s construction expertise is on display. They used tin ceiling tiles removed from an old shed in the lumberyard to retain a little history of the business and repurposed an antique wooden farm wagon to display products. A local wood carver crafted an eye-catching sign. It’s clearly not a cookie-cutter store.

    “We went with wider aisles, added shopping carts, installed better lighting,” says Sharona. “It just feels different. It feels like you’re going into someone’s home and it’s very inviting.”

    The store focuses on delivering personalized service to pro and DIY customers.
    The store focuses on delivering personalized service to pro and DIY customers. »

    She adds, “I didn’t realize we were exceeding expectations. The feedback we got is we can’t believe this is here in Carrollton. Now customers have everything they need right here. We didn’t want to give people a reason to shop elsewhere.”

    Sharona also recognized an opportunity to attract an underserved customer base—women. “It took a while to get women to come into the store,” she says. “Then we built the new building and put in housewares and lawn and garden and expanded paint and now they come in and bring pictures and say this is what I’m working on.”

    They held a month-long grand opening that included a ladies night event. Practically every category they sell has recorded significant growth. That’s mainly due to Cecil’s motto—”If you don’t have it, you can’t sell it.”

    The business, which reopened as Wood Shed Lumber & Hardware in January 2019, was an immediate hit with the community.The business, which reopened as Wood Shed Lumber & Hardware in January 2019, was an immediate hit with the community.»

    Becoming a One-Stop Shop

    Cecil and Sharona bought the lot across the street from their new store and transformed that into Wood Shed Outdoor Power & Rental, which opened in March 2021. The 7,200-square-foot building features a large showroom featuring STIHL power equipment, Gravely mowers, Traeger and other grills, patio furniture and YETI. Another large space features their expanded rental inventory and roomier service bays.

    Moving rental across the street freed up space inside the main store, which was used to expand into major appliances, showers, countertops and flooring. “The entire shopping experience is evolving, making Wood Shed a one-stop shop for our customers,” Sharona says.

    Cecil and Sharona purchased the lot across the street and turned that into Wood Shed Outdoor Power & Rental, a 7,200-square-foot showroom featuring power equipment, grills, outdoor furniture and rental inventory.
    Cecil and Sharona purchased the lot across the street and turned that into Wood Shed Outdoor Power & Rental, a 7,200-square-foot showroom featuring power equipment, grills, outdoor furniture and rental inventory.»

    The Eiserers’ investment in the new store is showing great returns. From the time they closed on the purchase of the lumberyard to just before the grand opening of the new location, sales more than doubled from $900,000 to $2.5 million.

    After adding appliances, 2020 store sales surpassed their expectations at over $5 million. Sharona says 2021 got off to a solid start and she was confident that the new rental business would help them exceed those numbers. “Our growth has far exceeded our expectations and pro forma,” she points out.

    An antique wooden farm wagon is used to display products in the new showroom for outdoor power equipment, grills and rental.
    An antique wooden farm wagon is used to display products in the new showroom for outdoor power equipment, grills and rental.»

    Adding more stores is a definite possibility, especially as their three (soon to be four) kids get older and more involved in the business. “This has always been a family deal,” Sharona says. “We’re one of the few businesses in town that hires 15-year-olds. We can see talent and grow them in responsibility.”

    Their kids—Porter, 14; Cicily, 10; and Novah, 4—are featured in the store’s radio ads and their pictures can be found on billboards. Family photos are displayed prominently in the store to show the business is run by a family, not an impersonal chain.

    Winning the Beacon Award has turned into the icing on the cake for the Eiserers. “It truly surprised me to be nominated in such a small town. It’s definitely an honor to receive such an award. It means we’ve worked hard and hard work pays off, and it gives the kids more inspiration,” Cecil says.

    Adds Sharona, “It’s humbling and exciting to see our hard work and commitment to the community be recognized.”

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  • Beacon Award for Best New Store Over 20,000 sq. ft. — Bomgaars

    By Chris Jensen

    Bomgaars has transformed a shuttered chain store into a shining example of what their community needs, providing a one-stop shop for everything from hardware and tools to footwear and feed.

    The Bomgaars store in Council Bluffs, Iowa, moved from a 33,500-square foot space into a former Kmart, bumping its square footage to 84,000 square feet and becoming a Bomgaars superstore.

    Joseph Puhalla is manager of Bomgaars’ new store in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
    Joseph Puhalla is manager of Bomgaars’ new store in Council Bluffs, Iowa.»

    After it moved to the new location in September 2019, it didn’t take long for the Council Bluffs store to become an all-star performer. Sales in the new location are up 55 percent from the previous year, and the store has exceeded the monthly sales goal every month since opening.

    The remodel included widening aisles, replacing some of the flooring and electrical and adding lighting for display cases.

    The already massive footwear department has proven so popular it will be undergoing further expansion.
    The already massive footwear department has proven so popular it will be undergoing further expansion.»

    “Orgill has been a key partner in our success every single time our stores have expanded, relocated or improved in any manner,” says Joseph Puhalla, who has been the manager at Council Bluffs since August 2015. “Whenever we call on them to assist, they step up and provide relocation teams who set product in a quick turnaround. They also provide valuable input in designing our product planograms, while their Smart Start program has been crucial in opening new stores.”

    Five aisles are devoted to DeWalt products, turning the store into a destination for power tools and accessories.Five aisles are devoted to DeWalt products, turning the store into a destination for power tools and accessories.»

    One-Stop Shop

    Fulfilling Bomgaars’ mission—to have what you need, when you need it, at the right price—the Council Bluffs store stocks products in major core categories, including electrical, plumbing, lawn and garden, tools, hardware and paint.

    The store’s larger size means it can carry a wider assortment of products—customers can shop additional niche categories such as clothing and footwear, farm and ranch, pet, automotive, sporting goods, scrubs and medical wear, housewares and toys. They will also find more brands in departments like pet food and horse feed.

    The core of the business is farm and ranch categories like animal feed.The core of the business is farm and ranch categories like animal feed.»

    “The core of our business is farm and ranch,” Puhalla notes, adding that Council Bluffs is a heavy agricultural area with a great environment for raising livestock as well as field crops. It is also in a more urban demographic with about 62,000 residents and Omaha just across the river.

    Promoting the store-within-a-store concept, this location has a large DeWalt store within the main store that occupies nearly five aisles. The DeWalt-branded signage, displays and endcaps used in this area make it clear to customers that Bomgaars is a go-to store for DeWalt tools and accessories.

    Footwear, power tools and power equipment are the three largest categories.Footwear, power tools and power equipment are the three largest categories.»

    “Our employees are trained in DeWalt power tools, so customers know they can rely on them to answer their questions,” says Puhalla. “I think that’s a big thing that sets us apart across the other areas of the store, too; customers know our employees can help them find what they need quickly and accurately.”

    The clothing area has a department store feel and is divided into different clothing shops dedicated to Carhartt, Dickies, Key and Ariat brands, with creative merchandising unique to each brand.

    “We drastically expanded the clothing department. We have been able to add new brands and create a destination for footwear,” says Puhalla. “Every department in the store grew and the extra space has allowed better merchandising to promote the sales.”

    The clothing area has a department store feel and is divided into different clothing shops by brand.The clothing area has a department store feel and is divided into different clothing shops by brand.»

    Creative Merchandising

    Inventive merchandising can be seen in other areas of the store as well. “We repurpose merchandise, like our galvanized feed troughs or stock tanks, and flip those over to use as displays,” adds Assistant Manager Steve Reiger. “They work well, look nice and show customers some of the products we carry.”

    The 84,000-square-foot location is one of Bomgaars’ largest stores.The 84,000-square-foot location is one of Bomgaars’ largest stores.»

    They continue to tweak the assortments to better serve customers. “With the success of footwear, we are adding many new styles and this will require a major aisle shift to make the new space,” Puhalla points out.

    So far, the community seems to really enjoy the new space. “They like being able to shop in a more organized store with more choices,” he adds. “Staffing, product availability and behavior have changed the way everybody does business and even expectations from customers and employees.”

    A bigger store means more employees, and Council Bluffs now has 47 employees, which is about 20 more than before. “We try to use shadowing as much as possible to help them learn. As they learn, they are given more responsibilities,” says Puhalla.

    By more than doubling in size, the new Council Bluffs store has been able to expand greatly in categories like hardware.By more than doubling in size, the new Council Bluffs store has been able to expand greatly in categories like hardware.»

    Impacting the Community

    Bomgaars prides itself on having a positive impact in the communities it serves, and the Council Bluffs store is no exception. The store supports local organizations like 4-H and the National FFA Organization, and during its most recent ladies’ night event, it donated 5 percent of all sales from the evening to a local hospital’s women’s health program.

    They host Bomgaars Show Clinic Tours, where customers can come in and learn about farm and animal topics like animal selection, showmanship, feed and management. In addition, the company supports past and current members of the military with social media posts and by selling military-related merchandise from the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation.

    Pet food is one of the major niche categories.
    Pet food is one of the major niche categories.»

    The Council Bluffs store is part of the growing Bomgaars company, which opened its 100th store in April and now has 107 stores in Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

    The fourth-generation company, which is owned by Roger and Jane Bomgaars, began in Sioux City, Iowa in 1952, when Bill Bomgaars was one of four men to form the Mid-States buying group to pursue the farm fleet business.

    “We grow by opportunity and recently have moved into several empty buildings in small-to-medium sized towns in the Midwest that were former Shopko stores,” says Torrey Wingert, vice president and chief financial officer for Bomgaars.

    “It’s such a great honor to even be nominated for the Beacon Award, let alone win it. To be chosen for this is an extreme honor,” says Puhalla. “My crew works very hard for the success of this business with no expectation of this kind of recognition. I am glad to share this honor with them.”

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