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Bomgaars grabs opportunity to expand to 33 stores
Roger Bomgaars, president of Bomgaars, sits on some merchandise in newly acquired warehouse space in the former Sioux Tools building on Floyd Boulevard. Bomgaars said it would add 224,000 square feet of storage space for store products. (Staff photo by Jerry Mennenga)

Moving with acquisitions when sound options presented themselves, Bomgaars has largely expanded the number of stores in the chain since summer 2001, essentially doubling the number of stores.

Bomgaars had a busy last 14 months, adding 15 more stores to bring the chain total to 33, as well as buying the former Sioux Tools plant on Floyd Boulevard to use for warehouse space. Throw in the three stores added in July 2001 and Bomgaars has added 18 stores in less than two years, most of them in Nebraska.

Roger Bomgaars, president, said there is no grand expansion plan for the firm - the opportunities were just too good to pass up. He said the Bomgaars plan is that "we expand only on opportunity. We don't have a growth plan that we have to meet" or timeframes for adding 'X' number of sites. Consider, he said, that from 1982, when adding a store in Mapleton until taking on one in Sheldon in 1994, the company stood pat with its chain. However, Bomgaars always makes sure its farm, ranch and home business stores are the focus of continuing reinvestment, such as when the downtown store was reworked at Third and Douglas streets in 1986.

"We like to think of ourselves as a 'do-it-yourself' store," he said, with a "very wide clientele" from farmers to white-collar professionals.

A third-generation business, Bomgaars was founded in 1952 by W.H. "Bill" Bomgaars at 819 Pearl St. His son Harold Bomgaars succeeded in running the company, followed by Roger Bomgaars.

While Bomgaars barely promoted the 50-year anniversary in 2002, Roger Bomgaars said "it is pretty gratifying" to have such tenure in the business world. "There have been some lean, tough years," he said. "The middle 1970s were tough, and the farm crisis years (mid-1980s) were very tough, but we have survived and thrived." During the peak times of the year (spring and holiday shopping season), Bomgaars reaches an employment level of about 700 chainwide.

Reviewing the store additions recently, Bomgaars said they were logical because the locations were in "good, mature markets" and since they rose at a time of favorable financing rates. "It worked out logistically well," he continued. "They are all right in our trade territory, which facilitates distribution and advertising."

With the addition of the stores, Bomgaars now marks its territory east to Storm Lake, Iowa, southeast to Carroll, south to Council Bluffs, southwest to Wahoo, Neb., and north to Sheldon, Iowa. The Nebraska stores added in July 2001 were in Fremont, West Point and Wayne. The subsequent acquisitions came via the former Country General chain of stores, as that company was in bankruptcy. In January 2002, Bomgaars purchased stores from Country General in Onawa, Denison, Carroll and Harlan, Iowa, as well as Blair, Tekamah and Hartington in Nebraska. In March 2002 seven more in Nebraska followed - O'Neill, Wahoo, Ains-worth, Schuyler, Albion, Neligh and Creighton - and then in January the Valentine, Neb., site was the most recent acquisition.

All those new stores figured into the Sioux Tools building purchase, Bomgaars explained. "With these recent expansions over the past two years, we have had to take on additional distribution and storage space," he said. "It certainly appears to us to be a cost effective opportunity to adapt and reuse existing structures" at Sioux Tools, albeit through converting a building that was built for manufacturing. "What we are good at is finding ways to use those types of properties," Bomgaars said.

Sioux Tools was owned by Snap-on Inc., of Kenosha, Wis. Snap-on had recently acquired Sioux Tools and then closed the plant after nearly 90 years, severing employment for about 160 jobs.

The Sioux Tools facility encompasses 224,000 square feet and Bomgaars converted about 160,000 into warehouse space. About 120,000 feet will be used initially. Bomgaars said the refurbishing was done in early January, then Bomgaars moved in in late January.

With the addition of the former Sioux Tools site that provides greater efficiency, Bomgaars said two current distribution facilities will be closed - one near 15th and Center streets and in the Hillcrest Shopping Center at Glenn Avenue and South Lewis Boulevard.

As for the status of Bomgaars in 2003, Roger Bomgaars harked back to his grandfather, "I have often wondered what he would say," of the chain that now totals 33 sites.

He summarized, "We have been blessed with great customers, great employees and a great opportunity to expand and strengthen our company. Now the challenge before us is to execute on that growth opportunity and find cost-effective operational means, which we plan on accomplishing in the next six months."

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