The new facilities house the company's executive, sales and administrative offices, a product showroom, and its main warehouse. The warehouse will be the site tonight of a dinner for about 600 vendors, customers and local dignitaries as part of Barjan's annual trade show.
The warehouse, at 700 by 300 feet, could hold four football fields and is more than twice the size of the old facility in nearby East Moline, Ill. (Barjan also has smaller warehouses in Mechanicsville, Pa., and Reno, Nev., but they're about 25% the size of this one.)
Warehouse operations are vital, says President Steve Huber, because space at truckstops is at a premium and there's not a lot of room for excess inventory. In some cases, what's on the hook is all that's there. Barjan sends merchandise on a weekly basis to more than 3,000 truckstops and travel plazas, shipping by less-than-truckload and package delivery services. Barjan offers approximately 10,000 products, and some of its larger customers carry as many as half that.
"Our philosophy is you treat everyone as fairly as possible, large stores or small," Huber says. About 85 salespeople work with the stores to help them decide what they want to carry.
The new facilities are on land large enough to put up another sister building of the same size, so the company has plenty of room to grow. And grow they have. With the acquisition of 13 different companies, between 1995 and today the company has grown from just over 100 employees to more than 600. In the last five years, business volume has grown five-fold, Huber says.
"Our two strategies are to try to find more products that our current customers want to buy, and try to find new customers." However, those new products won't go outside of the product categories the company currently carries: electronics such as CB radios and radar detectors; accessories such as CB antennas, lights, chrome and tools; entertainment products such as books, videos and audiocassettes; business products for truckers such as briefcases, calculators and notebooks; and things to make life on the road more comfortable, such as coolers, blankets and small appliances.
"We don't really want to get into food or tobacco, heavy truck parts, heavy chemicals," Huber says. He believes the company can double in size again within five years. "But you have to take care of existing customers," he says.
Huber admits that high fuel prices have affected Barjan's business. "Drivers obviously have to pay for fuel first," he says. "It's a little bit offset because the economy is doing well, but it's been a year when the truckstop/travel plaza industry really has had to work hard to offset that impact."
Barjan started in the early '60s when the founder, Wendell "Buzz" Moore, started selling sunglasses to service stations from the back of his station wagon. It has been located in the quad cities area ever since.