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Demo­lition work began at 115 E. Carlton Road this week for the new location of H.J. Gelzer & Son Hardware Inc.

The hardware and sporting good company in downtown Hillsdale will move just a couple of blocks for a larger and more open space, more room for parking, and the oppor­tunity for further expansion. In doing so, the company is investing more than $700,000 and a year in time to con­struct a new building with a grand opening next summer.

“We’re looking forward to securing the future of this business,” said Andrew Gelzer, the great-great grandson of the company’s founder, Henry J. Gelzer. “We are happy and honored to reinvest in our com­munity.”

The expansion is indicative of a trend of recent invest­ments in Hillsdale, City Manager David Mackie said, including from the indus­trial industry such as Paragon Metals as well as smaller busi­nesses such as Rough Draft.

Mary Wolfram, the City of Hillsdale’s head of eco­nomic devel­opment agreed: “This is a huge statement of con­fi­dence in the city. A current business owner is willing to invest to reha­bil­itate a building and expand. They must think business is going to be good in Hillsdale.”

The company demol­ished a two-story building on the new property built by its pre­vious occupant Alson’s Corp. on Monday. On the existing con­crete floor, it will con­struct a new nearly 12,000-square-foot retail space that will offer approx­i­mately 30 percent more inventory.

A parking lot being built to the north, south, and west of the building will offer space for cus­tomers with trailers.

It also is giving some updates to the original five-story ware­house that the business will use for storage and receiving deliv­eries. Its 125,000 square feet will also provide space to expand in the future.

“We’ll have room to grow the business for the next 40 years,” Gelzer said.

The company’s fur­niture store, which has used the ware­house on the new property since the company bought it in 2011, will stay in the downtown.

Con­struction is expected to last six months from the demo­lition with an addi­tional four months ded­i­cated to building retail space and training employees. Gelzer said the new store could open as soon as June though more likely July or August.

Gelzer said the new location will provide a more con­ve­nient and open shopping expe­rience and material han­dling like that at Home Depot or Wal-Mart instead of the “hermit crab” feel of its downtown store.

“Here, you don’t need a guide once you get the lay of the land, but when you first walk in, it’s a little intim­i­dating,” Gelzer said.

Being on M-99, or Car­leton Road, will also be ben­e­ficial, he said. It will avoid the con­fusing one-way streets in the downtown and the slow business days that come when the city closes down N. Howell Road for parades or other events.

“We’ll be in a con­ve­nient location and in control,” Gelzer said.

The building into which the store is opening has a sig­nif­icant history. William T. Buchanan & Sons Screen Door Works moved to the spot in 1895 and was the first screen door factory in the United States.

This move marks the hardware store’s second move in Hillsdale since it came to the city in 1921. It was orig­i­nally located next to the Keefer Hotel building. It relo­cated to the store’s present location in the mid-1820s.

Wolfram said she has heard con­cerns from res­i­dents over Gelzer’s vacating five store­fronts in the downtown. She said she is not worried, however.

“We can actually use the space,” Wolfram said. “We actually have a shortage of available of space for downtown stores. We don’t have many usable spaces.”

Wolfram said only a couple of store­fronts in the downtown are hab­itable right now. Most that sit vacant are under­going ren­o­va­tions, because their buildings are in need of repairs.

That is just even more good news for Gelzer’s Hardware.

“We’re a busy business,” Gelzer said, “and we enjoy great support from the city of Hillsdale and our neighbors.”

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: bnoble1@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @RightandNoble