In manufacturing, they are referred to as metals warehouses — giant structures that stock vast amounts of giant sheets of steel, stainless steel, aluminum and copper — often with railroad tracks or other major infrastructure nearby, to better haul product in and out.
They serve as middlemen, of sorts. The warehouses buy from the steel plants. Large manufacturers — appliance makers, for example — in turn buy what they need, often custom-cut at the warehouses to specified sizes.
There are many along Lake Michigan, in Indiana and Illinois.
Now a retail version has opened its doors — a metal convenience store — in Cedar Rapids.
Owner Rick Heller said Metal Supermarkets Cedar Rapids offers customers instant access to any metal, cut to size and ready fast, with no minimum-order quantity.
“We have a very active manufacturing and metalworking base in Cedar Rapids and have already received inquiries from local businesses and consumers,” Heller said.
“The accessibility to our store was a key factor in determining where we put down our roots ...,” he said, noting the store’s proximity to Interstate 380.
Metal Supermarkets carries metal supplies from aluminum and steel, to brass, bronze and copper. Staff can do precision custom-cutting, shearing or punching.
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Heller said customers range across various industries, including tool-and-die shops, manufacturers, fabricators, maintenance managers, contractors and construction companies as well as artists and DIYers.
“We can help out a company that needs metal fast because perhaps a mistake was made on a project, or we can also assist the artist doing metalwork in Amana,” said Heller.
Heller has lived in Cedar Rapids for the past 20 years and is transitioning to franchise ownership after 30 years of work in IT.
The store officially opened on Aug. 3 and is the first franchise in Iowa, part of the chain of more than 90 brick-and-mortar stores across the United States, Canada and United Kingdom.
“Our newest store in Cedar Rapids helps expand our growth in the American Midwest and will be our first location in the Hawkeye state,” said Stephen Schober, president and CEO of Metal Supermarkets.