Inside Track: Warners' Stellian expanding to Anoka County

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Members of the Warner family of Warners' Stellian, Bob Warner, VP, director of operations; Jeff Warner, president; Carla Warner, VP director of sales; Bill Warner, VP director of merchandising. The four came together in their Edina store.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Family-owned Warners' Stellian, heading for a third post-recession year of record sales, is opening another store, and adding a third-generation Warner to store-management ranks. The moves come 58 years after founder Jim Warner took a sales job at the old Stellian's appliance store on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul.

In the 1960s, Jim Warner acquired Stellian and renamed it Warners' Stellian. In August, Jeff Warner Jr., the son of Warners' Stellian president Jeff Warner Sr., will inaugurate the new Coon Rapids showroom, the eighth retail location.

At some companies, nepotism is discouraged. At Warners' Stellian, where young Warners all must work their way up from recycling cardboard in the warehouse, cleaning trucks or answering phones, they brag about the fact that 30 of the 230 employees are kin.

Jeff Warner Jr., a seven-year, full-time veteran of the company, will be supported by a veteran sales staff "and 10 or 20 new people behind them," said Jeff Warner Sr. "We're building the store out right now and we'll open quietly in August and have a grand opening across all the stores in October.

"This will be our first store in Anoka County. It will be about 10,000 square feet, about as big as our Woodbury and Apple Valley stores. We'll have working kitchens. We think it will be an outstanding location for us."

Jeff Warner Sr., 56, who joined the company fulltime in 1975, said Warners' Stellian is on track for a record $70 million in 2012 sales from existing stores. Warners', one of the 15 largest independent appliance retailers nationally, proves that hands-on, specialty retailing still matters in the era of big-box and online retailers.

"You'd better have some value on top of low prices," Jeff Warner Sr. said. "We're often dealing with the third generation of customers who are being advised by their parents and grandparents and who bought from people who may still work for us."

Bill Monson, a consultant who once ran the Center for Family Enterprise at the University of St. Thomas, said a couple of years ago that the Warner family was one of only a third of family businesses that survive into the second generation and only a third of those survive into the third generation. Monson credited that to "respect and admiration for each other's talents" and the fact that Warners must begin in entry-level jobs.

Four of the founder's nine children, including Jeff Sr., work in the business. The Warner family board is chaired by Jim Warner, 58, an independent director and longtime Twin Cities CPA known for his even keel.

dress for success

Under veteran businesswoman Jeri Quest, the three-year-old Dress for Success (DFS) Twin Cities chapter has emerged among the most active of the 120 Dress for Success affiliates globally. The local nonprofit has worked with 1,235 disadvantaged women to provide business attire, interview skills and job retention support. Many have gone on to employment.

Because of the local success, the 2012 International "Success Summit" is being held July 27-29 at the downtown Minneapolis Kimpton Hotel, featuring 150 women from six countries who will discuss career development, presentation skills, networking, communication, health and wellness and finances. Many of the attendees have been jobless and even homeless clients in the past.

Speakers will include former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, vice president of community relations and government affairs for Thomson Reuters Legal; Nicki Leondakis, president of Kimpton Hotels; and Rosalyn Taylor O'Neale, vice president and diversity officer of Campbell Soup Co.

Twin Cities DFS client Jewlean Jackson, who now works for the Northside Achievement Zone, also will be a Success Summit participant.

Dress for Success Twin Cities seeks more volunteers, donors and mentors at www.startribune.com/a1522.

DEVELOPER PIVOTS

Commercial developer Kelly Doran, who survived the recession partly by getting into upscale student housing projects near the University of Minnesota, has added an experienced senior-housing developer and plans to enter that growing business. William Stoddard, a 30-year developer, will be vice president of senior housing, following completion of three assisted living communities in Florida.

Doran, whose trademark is retail development-management, said the move to fast-growing senior housing is driven by market conditions.

"To survive and prosper in this business it's necessary to be nimble," he said. "In 2007, when retail development was drying up, we sought opportunity in new directions, which resulted in a very successful run of student housing projects."

Doran said he's not done with commercial or housing development, but the latest venture "just means that it's always good to be looking around the corner and we believe there is significant potential in senior housing."

Doran, who will be competing with for-profit and nonprofit developers such as Ecumen, Walker Methodist and Presbyterian Homes, plans "to build upscale projects that we will own and operate," including dining, recreation and exercise facilities, state-of-the-art security, housekeeping and access to health care.

Stoddard says it will take a few months to settle on an initial project.

Bloomington-based Doran also recently broke ground on the Mill & Main Mississippi River luxury apartment project in the historic Main Street area.

MADE IN USA CHALLENGE

Make a product? To celebrate its 40th year, Minneapolis-based National Mail Order Association has launched a Made In America contest and is calling on U.S. producers to submit their favorite products for a nationwide vote. It's also throwing down a challenge to U.S. consumers: Consciously spend $100 on a U.S. product instead of an import.

"Just think of 250 million people retargeting $100 on American-made products. That would mean an extra $25 billion in sales per year," said NMOA President John Schulte. The idea recently won praise on ABC TV's Shark Tank show. For more information, see www.nmoa.org.

DEE DEPASS

AILING best buy hires hr officer

In the midst of its own illness, Best Buy has hired Paul Dominski from Park Nicollet Health Services to lead its human resources operation in the United States.

Dominski was chief of marketing and human resources at Park Nicollet, where he was responsible for rolling out an edgy marketing campaign that included scrub-clad flash mobs and buying a local advertising spot during last year's halftime show at the Super Bowl. Dominski came to Park Nicollet from Target in 2009 in circumstances not unlike those facing Best Buy. The hospital system had laid off workers due to the recession and was hunting for a new CEO.

Richfield-based Best Buy has cut hundreds of workers, closed 50 stores and is looking for a new CEO to help resuscitate the electronics peddler.

JACKIE CROSBY

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