Not long ago, a woman came into Portage’s new Fastenal retail store, looking for a gift.
The gift’s intended recipient is a construction contractor. Suffice it to say, the shopper found a suitable gift among the store’s inventory of construction and industrial products.
Portage’s Fastenal store at 2800 New Pinery Road, in the Northridge Plaza shopping center, has been open since July.
Steve Sobiek, director of business development and planning for the city of Portage, said the addition of Fastenal to the city’s retail offerings meets a vital need — partly because Portage has an unusually high number of small businesses (between 700 and 800) and a robust manufacturing community.
Businesses are Fastenal’s principal customers.
“It’s exciting that they’re coming into a market of the type in which they’re sure to succeed,” Sobiek said.
According to Fastenal’s website, there are 2,622 stores nationwide, with a total inventory value of $913 million.
As the name suggests, construction-related fasteners such as nuts, bolts, and nails are part of the Fastenal inventory. But the store also offers items such as safety equipment, tools, ladders and other supplies needed for construction.
Fastenal started in 1967 in Winona, Minnesota, where Bob Kierlin opened the first store. The original business plan called for “dispensing nuts and bolts” via vending machines — an idea that was ahead of its time, according to the Fastenal website, but not by much. Today, the company has installed more than 50,000 vending machines, though the Portage store doesn’t have any.
Chris Dunahee, the manager of the Portage store, said Fastenal differs from the typical big-box home improvement store in that it provides more direct service to builders, including going to construction sites.
The opening of the Portage store was the result of “a split-off territory from Baraboo.” The Portage territory encompasses most of Columbia and Marquette counties and a little bit of Adams and Sauk counties.
So far, Dunahee said, business has been good at Portage.
“We get all kinds of customers walking in, including do-it-yourselfers,” he said.
Store hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.