Walking into the Nevada, Iowa, location of Van Wall Equipment isn’t like walking into any typical farm equipment dealership. The 66,000 square foot facility was built in 2014 and brought the previous ag store in Nevada and a lawn and turf store in Ames together under one roof. It has a unique design that was the vision of owner Don Van Houweling. The building has a modern design, inspired by the design of O’Hare International Airport concourse in Chicago, with a nod to the ag community it is part of. The shape of the building mimics that of a barn’s hay mow. “We hadn’t seen anything like this before, but we had some ideas and worked with a great contractor,” Van Houweling says.
One unique feature throughout the building is how quiet it is. “Whether you’re in the shop or anywhere else in the building, it’s quiet. And that’s because all the steel is perforated. It makes a huge difference,” he says, noting extra approval was required. “We used solid steel in the addition at the Story City store and it echoed. So, we found a way to fix that for all modernizations.”
When customers walk into the store, they are greeted by a receptionist and to their right is ag equipment set in front of the sales offices and to the left is lawn & turf equipment and sales offices. Moving back, the parts department is divided in a similar fashion, which is unique to the Nevada store, says Chad Bruns, corporate parts manager, and is the result of bringing the two stores together. When you step behind the parts counter, there are Vidmar cabinets under the counter as well as along the wall behind it. “Our goal was to have 75% of the parts on a line item basis within six steps, and this really increases our efficiency,” Bruns says. “Our goal is $850,000 per parts person per year, and you can do that if you have a good efficient system.”
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One unique feature of the store is the customer dock that Van Houweling compares to the drive-up bay you might find at a Chevy dealership. It provides an area for lawn & turf customers to drop off their equipment inside, in a clean and welcoming environment.
The Nevada store has two separate receiving docks, one smaller dock that can accommodate smaller trucks and then a larger one. Van Houweling says a lot of thought went into the dock design, including a drainage system that ensures they don’t flood when it rains or freeze over in the winter.
“The dock has a lot more length and width. There’s a lot more flexibility in terms of height and it has a lot more room around it. All the things that you don’t typically think that a dock needs, we now have. We also installed the electronic fuel delivery system right next to it, which is on the corner of the building, which was another significant investment,” Van Houweling says. “So we do everything we can to minimize the amount of non-revenue producing minutes it takes to do every job. How much nicer can you make it to clean this equipment and do these other non-revenue jobs, and make it nice for the people who work here.”
Another efficiency Van Wall planned into the design was the wash bay. Cleaning out the drainage area of the wash bay can be a pain, but Van Wall designed its so it can be easily cleaned. Van Houweling says the gate can be pulled up and a skid steer can be driven right into the pit to scoop out the dirt.
The building is also designed to keep technicians comfortable both in Iowa’s heat and cold. To help cool the building, Van Houweling installed additional airflow systems, which keeps air circulating continuously. Sixteen Big Ass Fans also help keep the air moving and cool the service shop. “On days when it’s closer to 100 degrees, we don’t even open the doors up. It’s cooler to leave them closed,” Chad Stoline, corporate service manager, says.
To help keep it warm in the winter, there is an in-floor heating system. “There are tubes in the floor everywhere, so it’s always warm. The technicians love it in the winter — they’re always warm because the heat’s where they are,” Van Houweling says.