THUNDER BAY, ONT. — A long-term goal to expand the Home Hardware store on Thunder Bay’s Memorial Avenue is finally taking shape as steel beams are being pile driven into the ground for the construction of an indoor lumber yard.
Chris Sauer, co-owner of the store since 2018 with his wife Shannon, says the plan, costing more than $2 million to build, was “set to go in 2020,” but because of the pandemic, the date was pushed back.
The new building will be unheated, and where lumber is stored out of the elements of sun, rain and snow.
“Because it’s unheated and there is no furnace blowing on the lumber, that will protect the lumber in better conditions,” Sauer said. “You’re going to drive in, come in the store, purchase your lumber, go back to your car and drive into the lumberyard to load up from the comfort of indoors. The guys will be out there to help you load up and then you drive out the other side.”
A secondary building on Iris Street, which is currently used to store lumber, will become overflow storage to access lumber products and will serve as an off-loading area for the lumber that will be transported to the new building for customer access.
Like many businesses, Sauer was not exempt from delays due to transportation and supply chain shortages which also impeded the construction work.
“Right now with the trucking issue, we’ve been told by some of our lumber suppliers that until it’s four weeks late, don’t even call,” he said.
“I was hoping to build this over the winter after we awarded the contract to Tom Jones in August. The plan was for them to do the groundwork and the concrete work in the fall and erect the building over the winter. When we awarded the contract, they told me if we ordered the steel building right now, it would show up in April. So the whole plan of building it over the winter, when it would be least inconvenient for our business and our customers, went out the window.”
With big plans on the horizon, Sauer didn’t sit idly by during the pandemic and used the time to begin interior renovations.
“We started inside during the pandemic. We installed the bathroom design centre. We were supposed to put in the paint boutique this winter but our previous supplier with the fixtures had a COVID outbreak so that hasn’t arrived,” he said.
“Just this past weekend we moved the service desk to the back of the store. There’s also a flooring boutique which we’ve ordered, that was supposed to be here this week.”
Sauer said the factory that is supplying them the fixtures had a COVID-19 outbreak, so they’re behind as well. He says they have ordered fixtures for the front half of the store all the way to the back and “it will be an entirely new store.”
With the “busy” summer season just around the corner, he worries that they will have only one entrance to the business during the construction. Staff will do everything they can to minimize disruptions and he says they will do their best to keep traffic flowing smoothly.
Sauer is asking his customers for a little patience this summer as he improves the shopping experience for them.
“It is going to be busy,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot going on and we’re going to try to keep things flowing smoothly.”
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal