Merchants moving to former Sam’s Club building

 

RACINE — Looking to significantly grow its Midwestern commercial relocation and storage business, Budd Van Lines has inked a long-term 10-year lease for use of the vacant 115,800-square-foot former Sam’s Club facility at 6200 Regency West Drive.

Budd Van Lines purchased Racine-based and family-owned Merchants Moving & Storage in February 2019. As part of its acquisition of Merchants, Budd’s Neenah division was moved and absorbed into Merchants, a Racine fixture since its 1921 founding by E.W. Eastman.

Tom Torcomian, Budd Van Lines’ chief operating officer, said Budd will relocate Merchants’ operations from its existing 40,000-square-foot Racine facility at 1215 State St., which Budd is currently leasing from the Eastman family. Merchants’ real estate was not part of the 2019 business acquisition.

Sam’s Club, a membership-only retail wholesale club owned by Walmart, opened its Racine store in 1992. The store closed in July 2009 with the simultaneous opening of a new 139,000-square-foot Sam’s Club at highways 31 and S in Somers.

Torcomian called the lease signing “positive news” for both Racine and Budd.

“We’re very excited,” he said.

Independently owned Budd, which specializes in moving corporate executives and luxury properties and also serving private households and commercial clients, operates 200 trucks nationally and maintains regional warehouse operations in New Jersey, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas and California.

New jobs anticipated

Torcomian said leasing of the former Sam’s Club facility will allow Budd to greatly expand its Midwest footprint, with an enlargement of its Racine presence from 30 trucks and around 60 employees — drivers, helpers, warehouse operators, office staff and management — to an anticipated 100 trucks and 200 to 300 employees. He noted the local operation plans to add 10 to 15 employees this year, 25 to 30 next year and expand employment “significantly” in subsequent years.

The expansive big-box facility on West Regency Drive will serve as Budd’s Midwestern headquarters and service center under its regional Merchants divisional nameplate. Budd anticipates Merchants to be fully moved into its new quarters by early June, with Torcomian noting that contractor work to retrofit the facility for Budd’s needs are “running ahead of schedule despite the negative effects” of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re doing a complete office build-out in the front, paving the parking lot, doing some external lighting, putting a fence around the location,” Torcomian said. “We’re also putting in drive-through doors for the ‘Load It Once’ trucks we’re introducing here, our modular container system.”

Torcomian said Merchants’ new facility will allow the firm to “progressively expand” the size and scope of its operations in household moving and storage and a variety of commercial applications, including domestic and international corporate relocations and large client moving and storage, as well as warehousing and delivery.

“We’re excited to enter into our 10-year lease,” he said. “The big thing is to expand and grow, which we have done and are continuing to look at … We’re always looking to grow, always looking to add talent in every aspect of our business.”

A key strategic acquisition

Calling its Racine-based operations “everything we could possibly want in an acquisition,” Torcomian said Merchants, which already ranks as Budd’s largest divisional operation, was an opportune acquisition in alignment with the company’s growth-oriented mindset.

“We run a coast to coast operation and this (Merchants) gives us proximity to be within 24 hours of 90% of the population of the lower 48 states,” he noted. “It’s a critical piece — it gives us presence moving east to west and north to south. It’s a good transit location … with proximity to Chicago, Milwaukee. Being in the center of the country there’s a lot of activity, and Wisconsin is a great manufacturing state. We have a great, talented labor pool in Racine and Wisconsin is a business-friendly state, which is why we are focused on growth here.”

While times are economically challenging across the U.S. due to COVID-19, Torcomian said he’s optimistic looking forward that brighter days are ahead.

“Business levels are flat, but not as off as much as I thought they would be,” he noted. “We’re holding our own. Things this year are a little bit different, but they’ll come back to normal … We’re bullish on the business — bullish on where we are and where we’re going.”

 

Racine-based Merchants, a division of Budd Van Lines, will be moving in early June from its 40,000-square-foot longtime home at 1215 State Street (pictured) to the 115,800-square-foot former Sam’s Club location at 6200 Regency West Drive.