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February 22, 2024

FW Webb moves Aroostook County wholesale operation to space 4X larger

building facade with door and snow Courtesy / F.W. Webb Co. F.W. Webb Co. moved its Aroostook County wholesale location to 15 Central Drive in Presque Isle, four times larger than its previous location. 

After finishing up a major expansion in Lewiston last fall, building systems supplier F.W. Webb Co. moved its Aroostook County wholesale location to a facility that will include a training center.

The company moved from 420 Main St. in Caribou to 15 Central Drive in Presque Isle, 12 miles away.

At 43,000 square feet, the Presque Isle facility is more than four times larger than the building in Caribou. 

“We were looking for close to a year before finding a location that best suited our needs,” Justin Gelinas, a general manager, told Mainebiz.

F.W. Webb is the Northeast's largest wholesale distributor of plumbing, heating, HVAC systems, LP gas, refrigeration, pipe, valves and fittings. The Bedford, Mass.-based company has more than a dozen locations in Maine.

Some additional work was needed to get the Presque Isle move-in ready.

“The location is flat and is the former site of an army barracks,” Gelinas said. “Some extensive groundwork was required to dig up the old foundation and reshape the land to make it more suitable for the new facility.”

Hiring plans

The store has 13 full-time employees

“We have additional hiring plans,” he said. “After adding one position in anticipation of the move, we welcomed another team member on opening day and have plans to add more positions as we grow our operation.”

Gelinas said the move “represents a significant long-term investment in the Presque Isle community, as I don’t believe there are many other buildings like it in the region.”

More space means more inventory and services. The facility is able to stock 1,000 more items than the Caribou shop, with added capacity for water works and industrial components.

“Because of the larger site, we can stock a more extensive inventory to support all 16 of our disciplines,” said Gelinas.

The company also updated its local fleet to include a flatbed truck that allows it to handle more complex deliveries such as high-density polyethylene pipe, culverts, hydrants, tanks, and other supplies. The facility has a will-call and texting system, and the larger space will provide a more comfortable layout for customers to find what they need quickly, Gelinas said.

Training center

The facility includes a training center for contractors and other building professionals to participate in hands-on educational programs, such as certifications and demonstrations of hydronics and HVAC systems. The center can accommodate up to 20 people. 

“Training is a big part of what we do,” said Gelinas. “During the planning process, we made a point to include a nearly 30-by-30 room that will be dedicated to training.”

For training purposes, the center includes boilers and Samsung HVAC equipment catered specifically to the local market. 

“We will utilize a variety of resources including our in-house product specialists and trainers, manufacturer representatives, and certified factory trainers to ensure that our customers receive the proper training needed to be successful in the field,” Gelinas said.

Training is an important element as the industry responds to rapidly changing trends, he said.

“For example, the push toward electrification is something that continues to be driven by state and federal rebate incentives,” Gelinas said. “Many of our customers can struggle to keep up because of how quickly these programs can change.”

With its own training facility, he said, the company can help customers adapt to changes with help from Efficiency Maine and CLEAResult, which can better explain changes in real time and, from that, provide specific product training.

Efficiency Maine is a quasi-state agency established to plan and implement energy efficiency programs in Maine.

CLEAResult is an Austin, Texas-based energy-efficiency provider with an education arm.

Market trends

Founded in 1866, F.W. Webb sells to 16 product markets, which also include water systems, fire protection and fabrication systems, pumps, process controls, water works and high purity process products.

The larger location is driven by increasing and diversifying market demand. 

“The market is definitely changing and we felt that our previous location held us back from adapting to these changes,” Gelinas said. “Having more inventory is important because we’ve recently added and expanded disciplines. It’s difficult to serve customers in certain disciplines when the space limits the amount of inventory available. This new location helps us in that regard.”

Lewiston expansion

The company has grown to more than 100 locations across nine states, including 13 sites in Maine. Based in Bedford, Mass., F.W. Webb has over 3,000 employees and annual sales of more than $1 billion per year, according to its website.

Last fall, the company completed the move of its Lewiston facility from Forrestal Street to a 70,000-square-feet space at 9 Lexington St., which houses a warehouse and a 6,000-square-foot showroom.

The Lexington Street location is almost double the size of the Forrestal Street spot, which the company had outgrown after 23 years there.

The new Lewiston facility also has training space in  a 40-seat room equipped with a certified Samsung training lab.

Lewiston Operations Manager Jake Viel said the move has resulted in new hires, and plans include expanding the divisions the Lewiston location supports, increasing its industrial and HVAC offerings and adding water works inventory. 

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