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  • Last modified 41 days ago (Aug. 13, 2020)

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Building center is getting hammered

Staff writer

It’s a strange problem to have.

Homeowners tackling do-it-yourself projects have kept lumber and building suppliers like Morgan Wheeler, co-owner of the Building Center, busy with orders.

However, basics like siding and roofing are becoming harder for him to track down as COVID-19 continues to slow supply chains.

“Things as simple as two-by-fours and things like that, stuff that should not be difficult to find, we’re having to pull out of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Kansas City,” he said. “Usually we are able to pull them the next day out of Wichita or Newton.”

Working the phones and apologizing to customers for long waits is an odd price to pay for brisk business.

Still, Wheeler can’t complain.

Bigger projects have been put on hold, but homeowners have “stepped up to the plate” to tackle remodeling projects they otherwise might have hired out, he said.

Decks, roofing, kitchens and cabinets, and new windows have all been popular this spring and summer.

“People are kind of sick of looking at, you know, projects they have been putting off for a while,” he said. “When you’re stuck at home for three months you might as well get that knocked out.”

Do-it-yourselfers taking on home improvement for the first time have many questions and are happy to have experienced people to turn to for answers.

“That is a big part of why we get some of the customers we do, because they want someone local to call,” he said. “It drives my wife nuts, but I’ll take phone calls at 9 p.m. on a Saturday if people have questions.”

Wheeler has operated The Building Center since 2017.

He and college sweetheart Aubrey were married May 30 and celebrated with a reception at the Historic Elgin Hotel.

Aubrey joined Marion Historical Museum as its new director two weeks later.

The newlyweds are remodeling a home on Elm St. they bought as a “fixer-upper.”

“That’s going to be a pretty big project. We are basically gutting the whole place,” he said. “We don’t have any kids. So we are going room by room.”

Roofing and dated décor are first on their do-to list.

“Specifically, there is a lot of paneling from the 1970s in there,” he said. “All of that has definitely got to go.”

He is grateful that customers he offers advice to as they remodel their homes are patient with shortages in materials wrought by a pandemic.

Wheeler sells several lines of appliances in his storefront. Some models are not available right now.

Manufacturers such as Whirlpool shut down after an employee tested positive only to reopen and then close again as more workers fell victim to the virus.

Ordering material from overseas “is just not happening right now,” he said.

“We really appreciate our customers and how understanding they’ve been,” he said, adding that one client has been waiting six months for a range for her new home.

“She has been very, very understanding and that’s nice, because there’s nothing that we can do to get it done any faster,” he said. “I can yell and scream all I want.”

Last modified Aug. 13, 2020

 

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