On a decidedly cool Wednesday afternoon, I rode out to the new Menard’s on Middlebelt Road.
I got an invite in the mail a few weeks ago welcoming me and other Contractors to come out and test drive their store. I couldn’t make the Monday afternoon program for Contractors Only, so I went today.
The store is situated on a large busy street right near a major expressway. The ironic thing is they are also right across the street from the local Home Depot, pushing them right in competition for customers.
What a bummer. For the Orange Guys, that is…
Driving up was, of course, what is to be expected: a newly paved parking area full of cars. Surprisingly, I didn’t see many contractor’s work vehicles out there. I figured it was the time of the day (2 p.m.), and give them chance to find the joint because, folks, I think the place is pretty awesome.
As I drove through the parking lot, I noticed the far end of the lot wasn’t paved or even accessible, even though the arrow pointing to the left said it was. I’m sure they’ll fix that; otherwise, cars will decide to turn left based on the left turn arrow and run into a dirt field!
As I got out of my car and walked pass a flock of geese at the outer edge of the lot, I felt a sense of urgency to enter the front door. As I approached the door, the store gave me a good feeling, you know, a vibe.
The lady at the counter greeted the customers and it truly felt genuine. Could it be the neutral grey carpet strategically placed, or the thoughtful electrical section to the right of me — with beautiful ceiling fans and lights to look at.
I decided to go back through the turnstile and snap a picture of the entrance. The only thing I wasn’t fond of is the turnstiles because they spin in one direction.
I asked the young lady at the entrance to please open the gate. She did and I snapped this blurry photo. Damn YOU.. iPhone! 😉
The homeowners and DIYers were up in that place. At 2pm, it was crowded. I shot down a side aisle and came to a booth with three sales associates.
My understanding of these booths is they will help you with material takeoffs and contractor set-up, scheduling, and delivery. They have these spots set up in each section of the store: For Doors & Windows, you get a booth with sales staff, so on and so forth.
After speaking to a helpful guy named Stan who pointed me in the direction of the Building Department, I was off.
The isles are spaced nicely apart with ample lighting. In fact, the store appeared very bright and inviting. It gave me that Walmart Effect: openness, airy, bright, and welcoming.
Convenience Store Awesomeness
I proceeded to the back of the store along the main thoroughfare and came upon a section of the store I never would of guessed would be there: They have a friggin’ grocery area! You can purchase snacks, hair spray, body lotion, and a variety of items you might find in a CVS Pharmacy. Hell, you can even buy dog food and doggie treats, which I did.
As I passed the Landscape and Patio section, I came upon the Builder’s Department. There were extra sales staff on duty. When these home stores launch, it makes perfectly good sense to have more than enough people on the clock for the predictable rush of customers.
A guy named, “Dan the Bald-head Man” introduced himself. I told Dan I was here to get garage plans for my home.
He was more than helpful. He pointed me to a section of plans on the far wall that I could pick from — many styles of garages, from hip roof, to 3-car, etc.
What was cool is you pick any garage, they assemble the material and price list from a SKU, and they’ll drop the materials — according to distance from Menard’s to the jobsite. How cool is that?
After ending the conversation with garage plans in hand, I proceeded to the checkout — which I’ll need to get used to.
I pushed my cart up to the aisle and the lady started unloading it. Huh?
They unload your cart while you walk to the far end of the check-out aisle and BAG YOUR OWN — like at some grocery stores! It’s a kinda WONKY procedure, but hey, I don’t know ‘nothing.
Another thing — the cashier couldn’t VERBALLY tell me the total. 🙁 She said it was store policy!
You have to look at the total on a credit card pad, THEN HAND THE LADY THE MONEY. It didn’t make sense to me.
Beyond that little snafu, I think Menard’s is a surprise hit for Contractors.
They do not compete with individual contractors doing installation work for Homeowners. They won’t sale you a product, then install it — which puts them in direct competition with us. Their selections are unmatched by the other Big Box stores from what I see, which is a huge double bonus.
So as I bagged my small load of crap, I noticed a strange thing.
Menard’s has awesome shopping bags.
My Menard’s bag is made of the strongest plastic I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED in a home improvement store.
I bet I could put 5 tubes of caulk in there and it WILL NOT PUNCTURE. In fact, on my next visit, I’m gonna test this theory…
Here’s the break-down:
- Were sales staff friendly? 4 out of 5 stars.
- Did employees greet you? 3 out of 5 stars. A few didn’t speak; most did.
- Was store bright and clean? 5 out of 5 stars.
- Were aisles user-friendly? 5 out of 5 stars. Wide, bright, inviting.
- Could you find departments easily? 4 out of 5 stars. I’ll get better as I visit more often.
- Was the parking lot clear of random carts? 5 out of 5 stars. None visible to me.
- Would I shop there again? 5 out of 5 stars.