Right Stuf's Big Move
By Shawne Kleckner, 2005
Most all of us will move, statistically, at least eleven times during our lifetimes. As we pack up our various belongings and things, it seems as though it will take forever to get it all done, unpacked, and put away at a new place.
Moving a business is even harder because while you're moving, you still need to service your customers and generate revenue to pay your bills. So as we began planning our move, I knew that it was going to be an immense challenge for our firm.
As we grew tighter and tighter into our offices, I knew that it was time to relocate. We had been in the facility since 1996, and had slowly bumped out our neighbors in the building to add additional space. When the last neighbor was gone, we built upstairs lofts to effectively use the height of the building.
We had considered building, and had looked around the area for development land but didn't really find anything exciting. Then we ran into something that was interesting just to the northwest of Des Moines, in a small community that due to growth had become essentially a suburb.
Going back to the early 1900's, the Mrs. Grimes canning facility in Grimes, Iowa had been a part of a small farming community, and through common ownership operated similar facilities in several Iowa communities. The firm processed and canned various vegetables, with its most famous product being the signature "Mrs. Grimes Chili Beans," as well as other products including pumpkins, tomatoes, dog food, taco chips and shells, and fruit juice. In the late 1980s, the operation was purchased by a Minnesota food company which closed the actual vegetable processing portion of the business, and operated the facility as a distribution center and private label packing center. About the time we were looking for space, it was announced that this facility would be closing.
Once I saw the building, I saw a lot of potential. Well, if you define "a lot of potenial" as "totally gut and remodel." I saw it as "opportunity." Although it was an older property, it had been well cared for. Plus, the available space was just enormous, with plenty of additional room to add on or grow in the future if we needed it. I could see in my mind how we could break the space into room for offices and warehouse. Although we still had time left on our lease in the current space, I also knew that it would take time to remodel the new building and make it ready for us.
It was a very busy summer - not a day went by where I didn't feel in the middle of it in some way. I hadn't really considered how many decisions would have to be made! Where do the walls go? What color will they be? How tall? Will there be carpet? What kind? What color? Oh.. you want the building to have heating... AND cooling? Well, guess we'll need to add a cooling system. What type? What brand? How big? Oh.. and you'll need to add some plumbing; the building is about 5 times the current space's size, but has 2 fewer bathrooms than the space we already had (which were already fought over!)
In order to minimize the interruption to our business as much as possible, teams of staff members were working both at the old location and the new building much of the summer, setting up shelving, cleaning and organizing, and beginning the transport of excess inventory and equipment. At the same time, the contractors were working on the interior walls, the wiring, data cabling, and the heating and cooling systems.
Of mention is the unique solution that we chose for the heating and cooling. The existing structure did not have any cooling at all, only a rough heating system. A conventional system would likely need to be roof-mounted, and the structure of the roof was really not adequate to support this much weight. Given that an entirely new system would have to be installed anyway, we decided to see if there was another option.
A geothermal system, often referred to as a "ground-sourced heat pump," was an attractive option. The temperature in the ground below the frost line is fairly constant all year, around 55 degrees F. This is why when you go in a show cave, for example, it's still 55 whether it's the middle of August or the beginning of January. We started by drilling a number of wells in the rear of the property, each about 200 feet deep. In the summer, the heat pump extracts heat from the building, transfers it into the water in the well pipes, and pushes the heat into the cool ground, where it is dissipated. In the winter, this process is reversed. The heat pump extracts heat from the relatively (compared to the Iowa winter!) warm ground, transfers it into the water in the wells, and pumps this heat into the building. The result is the need for far less energy than conventional systems. How's that for a science lesson!
In any event, even though the upfront cost for a system like this was a bit higher, in the medium term, it would save us a great deal of money on our energy bills. Nothing had to be installed on the roof, and it pleased my inner ecology voice.
We tried to keep as much of the character of the building as we could, salvaging brick walls in some offices, the original rounded roof in the customer service area, and keeping the original metal fire doors!
All in all, I am very proud to say that the staff pulled together and between the material sent over early and a great deal of work, we were able to move our entire business and be operational again in only 4 days. All of the furniture was moved, the remaining inventory was relocated and put away, and the IT staff came in in the wee hours of the morning to relocate our website and datacenter to minimize the amount of downtime - in fact, I think the website was only down for a total of 4 hours!
So, we're now settled in to our new home. Although it was a long time in coming, it certainly has been worth it. Now, on to the great anime bargains!