FAIRFIELD – Kelly Supply in Fairfield built an expansion that doubled the store’s square footage.
Kelly Supply is a wholesaler specializing in products for commercial electricians, plumbers, HVAC workers and ag customers, but it sells to the general public as well.
Tanner McCreedy, the manager of the company’s Fairfield branch, said the business sells a wide variety of items from safety gear to hand tools, testing tools, janitorial items, specialized parts for contractors as well as household materials such as disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, hand towels, hand soaps and paper towel dispensers.
It does a lot of industrial wiring, too, for appliances like hot water heaters.
“We dabble in a lot of everything,” McCreedy said.
Kelly Supply began as an ag maintenance store in Nebraska 100 years ago. Over the years, it grew and expanded into different product lines.
The company now has 13 locations scattered throughout the Midwest, with three in Iowa: Fairfield, Oskaloosa and Pella. McCreedy said a lot of the company’s stores are along Interstate 80. Its head distribution center is in Lincoln, Neb.
The local history of the business has seen it move from one location in town, and now into an expansion doubling its square footage. Before it was located at its current spot on South 20th Street, Kelly Supply occupied the building west of the Jefferson County Law Center on Grimes Avenue now occupied by LISCO.
McCreedy said the Fairfield store’s recent expansion was precipitated by the owners wanting to expand their product line. He said the building had reached its capacity, but the owners wanted McCreedy to keep stocking new products.
“We got to a point where the owners wanted to bring this product in, and I finally told them no,” McCreedy said. “I told them, ‘If you want this product, I need more building. Let’s figure out what we need to do.’”
McCreedy and the owners talked about some ideas in 2019, and after putting their heads together, hatched the idea of building a second structure to the north of the existing store with a gap between them that a vehicle could drive through for loading and unloading materials.
“We wanted to be more diverse and have more products on the shelf, more options for customers,” McCreedy explained, saying that he didn’t want local residents feeling they needed to drive to Ottumwa or Iowa City for parts. “We’re trying to gain a toehold in a little bit of everything to have more variety for plumbers.”
The addition of the new building nearly doubled the store’s size from 7,400 square feet to 14,000 square feet. Construction of the building finished in February, when employees moved products from the southern part into the new northern part.
The store never had to close during the move, which was done over a three-day period. McCreedy said the business is still adding products to fill up its shelves, and that once they’re full, it’s really going to change the appearance of the store and the impression it leaves on customers.
He said it will make them realize that Kelly Supply has a lot of specialty items they can’t find in other stores.
The business planned to do a ribbon-cutting ceremony after completing its expansion, but that was right around the time the coronavirus hit Iowa.
“We wanted to do our ribbon-cutting in March, but COVID shut us down,” McCreedy said.
McCreedy said the virus has slowed the number of customers coming through the door. He estimates that 75 percent of Kelly Supply’s customers are contractors, with the general public constituting the other 25 percent. During the pandemic, people have been reluctant to hire contractors because they’re worried about an outsider coming into their home, since they don’t know who’s carrying the virus.
“If somebody had planned a big project like constructing a building, and they end up deciding not to do it quite yet, that affects us, too,” he said.
McCreedy said business seems to be improving now in the middle of the summer compared to where it was in the fall, but it’s still “not back to where it should be.”
Overall, McCreedy said Kelly Supply has been doing well financially, especially taking into consideration the downturn the virus has brought.
“We’re still doing well, even if we’re not doing as well as we could have without [COVID-19],” he said.
Kelly Supply has become a major supplier for several businesses in the area, such as Hill-Phoenix, which has offices in Keosauqua and Centerville.
“We house most of their products, and we take product down to them every day,” McCreedy said. “We’re doing more and more of their supplying.”
McCreedy rattled off a number of the business’s electrical clients such as Ben Godwin, Livewire Electric, Randy Zehr and Chuck Ledger.
“We get quite a few plumbers such as Pierson & Pierson,” he said. “Vision Ag is one of our ag customers. We have such a large list of different customers.”