A lot goes into opening a new Fleet Farm store. At the new Windsor location, some 300 trucks delivered more than 5,000 pallets of merchandise to be put away beforehand.
John DeMars, the store’s general manager, described the process of opening the Windsor Fleet Farm at the Dec. 20 Waunakee Rotary meeting.
Groundbreaking on the new store occurred just over a year ago, and in June, hiring the 250 workers began. Fifty of those are full time, and eight are managers. Fifteen specialists in different areas use their expertise to help customers.
“At Fleet Farm, we really like to stress customer service. Having these roles really allows us to help customers more,” John said.
With Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate, John said hiring takes effort. Fleet Farm representatives reached out to the community to do so. Workers were needed to first set up the fixtures, and high school students put labels on the shelves.
When those pallets arrived, John described the scene as “controlled chaos,” and 40 temporary workers were bused in from Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison to help.
Fleet Farm has a gas station, car wash and auto center, along with outdoor storage area, creating many sites to maintain. Several licenses are required as well, such as a federal firearms license and alcohol and tobacco license. John takes care of these and said his name is on many important documents.
The team at Fleet Farm is integral to what the store does, he said.
“The important thing with retail is having fun,” he said. The workers take breaks together and participate in the community.
Fleet Farm has sponsored several events in DeForest, including Music in the Park, and representatives have shown up at the Farmers Market with souvenirs to give away. The company also provided grants to the DeForest Area Foundation and FFA.
Fleet Farm used social media to promote the store’s debut and fun activities accompanying it, such as a store scavenger hunt and six weekends of grand openings.
“It was really fun to have these kinds of events,” John said.
Fleet Farm also has Orange Friday, the Friday before the deer season opener. The Wausau store draws about 800 who show up before 6 a.m. that day.
While John admitted retail is not a growing enterprise, he said Fleet Farm is a little different. The growing company opened five stores this year and will open another five next year.
“We try to keep to the core values,” he said, “to provide customer service and the products important to customers.”
As far as Fleet Farm store grand openings, the Windsor store’s was the most attended and had the highest sales of all others, John said.
“The community has been so good to work with,” he added.
The store received the Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce Award for New Business of the Year.
Some fun facts about Fleet Farm stores: Those silos are empty, John said; they are simply a calling card, signaling to passersby. Only bathrooms are located in the lower level.  
Also, Fleet Farm and Blain’s Farm and Fleet are owned by two separate sets of brothers who are not related, as some have come to believe, John added.
Other News:
–Al Dassow and Liz Diehs gave their 90 seconds of fame. Al grew up in Sheboygan. His wife’s is from Waunakee, and her grandfather started the Waunakee Tribune. Al is a CPA.
Liz works at Waunakee Community Bank and has transitioned into a new role as retail banking manager.
Guests: John DeMars, the speaker, and Jenny Chang, the club’s exchange student.
Visiting Rotarians: None.
Birthdays: Dec. 27, Jim Kattner.
Anniversaries: Dec. 27, Rich and Sue Wipperfurth.
Greeters: Dec. 27, Lori Derauf and Breck Dokken; Jan. 3, Pat Durden and Fritz Durst; Jan. 10, Taylor Endres and Gary Epping.