Wesco changes hands: Same place, new owners
Customers visiting Wesco over the past month likely haven't noticed a change in the home furnishings store, but there is big one. The store has new owners.
Mark and Marla Hellman purchased Wesco in early September from long-time owner John Kress.
Mark has worked for Wesco for the past 11 years as the appliance manager and overall general manager, and Kress is sure the store is in good hands.
"I feel fortunate that Mark and Marla saw a potential in the business to continue it," he said. "They are great merchandisers with a great feel for the home furnishings business."
The Hellmans have a long history of working in the retail industry and, in fact, met when Marla hired Mark to work for her at the Paper Warehouse in Eau Claire.
"It's in our blood a little bit," said Mark, adding he's had a lot of jobs in his life but they've all included customer service.
Mark is originally from Boyceville, home of the Pickle Festival, and Marla hails from Stoddard. She has been working at Mathews Archery the past nine years but has worked for Office Max, Kay Jewelers, Goodman Jewelers and the Paper Warehouse since meeting Mark in 1997.
Marla said she is looking forward to this new chapter in their life together.
"I loved working with my husband years back and I'm glad I get to do it again."
While ownership has transferred, the employees are the same except for a few new hires in the warehouse and the addition of Wettstein's top appliance technician, who came to Wesco after the La Crosse home furnishings business closed its doors last month.
That seems to be a trend in the area with Bob's Furniture City in Tomah and Sime Furniture in Viroqua going out of business and The Board Store in La Crosse abandoning its furniture line.
In this area, that leaves Wesco and the big chains like Slumberland and Home Depot as the major players, which is a comfortable position to be in, especially for the Hellmans who have found their ideal careers in Sparta.
"This has been my favorite job," said Mark. "I enjoy what I'm selling. Both Marla and I like to make things look nice. We take great pride in our home and we like to instill that in others."
Wesco, which actually stands for Western Supply Company, Inc., is part of the world's largest buying group, Nationwide, whose brand group is larger than Home Depot, Lowe's and Sears combined.
Combine that with the business' investment in its online store, shopwesco.com, and it can compete with any internet vendors out there as long as they get the chance.
"That's always the tough part -- getting a chance," said Kress.
While his family name always will be associated with Wesco, Kress said the business is more of a family and the store will continue on with same quality products and great service it's provided its customers for the past 95 years.
"We've just got a new president and secretary basically," he said. "Nothing else has changed other than their implementations, which have been all positive. It's good for Sparta and good for the employees."
Mark agreed. "Everything stays the same," he said. "The same customer service and the same ethics that have always been here are still here. We're not going anywhere."
Wesco is holding its 95th anniversary sale throughout the month of October. See their full-page ad in this edition.