By Sarah Einselen For the Kokomo Tribune
---- — GALVESTON — Maple Grove Distributing is running out of space.
It’s a race against time for the company to finish its new warehouse, which will add about 6,900 square feet of space for the company’s stock of small engine parts. The distributor is approaching its busiest season and this year’s bitter winter has delayed construction on the warehouse.
As it is, company owner Terry Finley was waiting for the ground to thaw just enough to pour concrete.
“It’s been a dream of mine for 20 years now,” Finley said as he stood on the gravel that awaited its concrete covering. “We’re at a point now that we had no choice.”
Inventory keeps piling up in the existing warehouse space — some overstock sits on unlabeled shelves far away from its assigned inventory spot just because there’s nowhere else to put it.
“It was either build a warehouse or go out of business,” Finley said with a grin.
Over the last month alone, Maple Grove’s inventory has grown from over $700,000 worth to more than $1 million worth.
“We’ve got the highest inventory now that we’ve ever had,” Finley said.
So he decided to expand, putting about $500,000 into building the warehouse onto the back of the existing Maple Grove barn, an icon in the Galveston area. The company received a six-year tax abatement from the Cass County Council for the project, according to Cass County economic development director Christy Householder.
Maple Grove, which was launched in 1938 to accompany a lawnmower repair business in Galveston, came under Finley’s ownership in 1986. He credits the help he received from his parents, Everett and Miriam Finley, as well as the employees for the success of the business since.
The company has seen growth of about 15 percent each year over the last few years, according to Maple Grove’s office manager, Jan Stroud, even during the drought in 2012.
And its inventory has grown by about 25 percent in the last five years, Stroud added.
“If we don’t have to send backorders, it helps our freight,” she explained. On average, the company filled 98 percent of its orders without back-ordering items, she said — a feat she and Finley are proud of.
The industry average, according to Finley, is about 92 percent.
Several local repair shops have dealt with Maple Grove for years. Two in Logansport praised the variety of parts available through Maple Grove’s catalog.
“Basically their service is as good as anybody else,” said Kim Costello, owner of Peck’s Sales and Service. “They have a real good fill rate.”
Costello has been buying parts from Maple Grove since around 1989, he said. “If somebody’s got a good fill rate, I try to stay with them.”
Arone’s Hardware mechanic John Hettinger, formerly maintenance supervisor at France Park, said he’s been buying from Maple Grove for at least the last seven years.
“Instead of going back to dealers, they can get a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff’s cheaper,” Hettinger said. Their variety is also greater than another company he deals with regularly, he added.
On occasion, he’ll suggest that clients purchase parts themselves through Maple Grove’s retail counter if it’s convenient for them.
The vast majority of Maple Grove’s business — 92 percent — is with wholesale customers. Stroud sent out 2,540 invitations to its existing wholesale dealers for the company’s annual open house this month, including a growing contingent of Internet-only retailers.
“It used to be about 50-50,” Finley said of the split between wholesale and retail business.
However, the company still operates its retail counter in the iconic red barn for those who choose to buy parts themselves.
“Honestly the best thing for us would be to shut the retail down ... but I’d probably get shot,” he added with a grin. “Everybody relies on us.”
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME.