BY KATHY GIBBONS
TRAVERSE CITY — Preston Feather Building Centers wanted to open a full-service building center in Traverse City for at least five years.
They're not waiting any longer.
The company will debut a location at 777 U.S. 31 South, just south of Wuerfel Park and north of Tractor Supply, around mid-February. At the same time, it will close the doors of the smaller Williamsburg window and door showroom/design center it opened about two years ago.
"Our builders in the area have been asking us when we were bringing the rest of it down, so we are," said Human Resources and Marketing Manager Kate Scollin.
"The rest" includes lumber, building materials, hardware and a kitchen and bath showroom in about 3,000-square feet with additional outdoor storage.
"We hope this will be the beginning of a much larger location down the road," Scollin said. "But it will be enough."
Established in Petoskey in 1915 by professional builder Preston Arthur Feather, the company opened locations in Harbor Springs in 1988 and Gaylord in 1996. Scollin said the downturn in home construction and the overall economy stalled Preston Feather's hopes to open the full-service location in Traverse City, though the company managed to ride out the economy with its existing businesses.
"Like everybody else, we've had to do some creative things," Scollin said. "We've been very pleased that we've ended each year in the black. We've weathered the storm and we are ready to grow again."
So, it seems, is the home construction industry. Jeremy Hawke, senior vice president and Traverse City market manager for the Bank of Northern Michigan, which is partnering with Preston Feather on the project, said residential construction is on the upswing.
"The builders I've been talking to — particularly those builders dealing with custom-built homes — most of them have work booked through this year already," Hawke said.
Preston Feather's website notes that "Traverse City is obviously far and away the largest market in Northwest Michigan and represents enormous growth potential for the company."
"This is probably one of the best-growing communities in the state right now," Scollin said.
Troy Bamberg, general manager of the new Traverse City store, said hiring is in progress. He expects the store to employ about 15 people to start.
"The building trade, the builders in the area, will be our primary focus," Bamberg said. "We've always been very interested in that marketplace and we think it's the right time."