Since 1998, and mostly through its small Madison-area office, Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. has gone far afield for one of its best customers: national outdoors outfitter Cabela’s, a leading specialty retailer and direct marketer of hunting, fishing, camping, shooting, boating and related gear that grossed $3.6 billion last year.

Kraus-Anderson, a Minneapolis-based general contractor and construction manager, has built 24, or close to 40 percent, of Cabela’s 64 stores in the United States and Canada, working in a dozen states including Texas, Kansas, Illinois, South Dakota, Montana and New York.

But its current job is special, as the Madison-area office for the first time is building a Cabela’s close to home, with an 86,000-square-foot store set to open in spring 2015 in the Prairie Lakes Shopping Center in Sun Prairie.

“I do these nationwide, but for me to do this in my own backyard is great,” said Mike Hinderman, Kraus-Anderson’s project manager for the Sun Prairie Cabela’s.

“I’m excited to work on this project, and I think a lot of the subcontractors are as well,” he added. “Our industry is into the outdoor activities, so to do a store like this — we take a lot of pride in it. We’re going to be shopping at it for years to come and taking our families to it.”

After breaking ground in June at the 10-acre site at highways 151 and C, Kraus-Anderson has the store’s 523-space parking lot nearly finished, the building shell framed up and the interior concrete slabs poured and drying. Complete enclosure of the structure is expected by mid-November, to enable extensive work on the building’s interior over the winter months.

Like most other Cabela’s outlets around the country, that interior will be elaborate. Founded in 1961 to sell a few handmade fishing flies through the mail, Cabela’s today is best known for delivering an immersive retail shopping experience — for surrounding its customers in realistic outdoors decor displayed in jaw-dropping retail outlets that company leaders call “destination” stores.

Ranging in size from 35,000 to 247,000 square feet, the stores are stuffed floor-to-high-ceiling with museum-quality wildlife displays, flooded with natural light and featuring signature company decor. Amenities include two-story mountain replicas with built-in aquariums housing region-specific fish, indoor archery ranges, hand-painted nature murals and trophy-animal taxidermy mounts re-created in their natural habitats, with Cabela’s merchandise threaded through the stores.

The Sun Prairie store is slated to have all of those elements, plus a mezzanine level that will increase its interior space to 92,000 square feet, Hinderman said.

The building’s exterior will feature Cabela’s characteristic log-style construction, with stonework, wood siding, and green-metal roofing, plus heavy timber trusses over the front entrance and then exposed in a high center bay all the way through the store’s interior.

Cabela’s will use its own subcontractors to handle the store’s more unique elements, including taxidermy experts, mountain-replica builders and artists who paint the murals. Kraus-Anderson, in turn, will adapt the building structure for those special features, taking steps such as locating water hookups where the aquarium will be and putting a thicker footing foundation under the aquarium and mountain replica, to support the weight of those features, Hinderman said.

As general contractor, Kraus-Anderson runs a competitive bidding process to hire the other subcontractors and tradespeople, while overseeing how all the elements come together and monitoring the progress of construction throughout. The only building work it typically does takes care of is the carpentry.

“That’s one of the things that actually makes our system work when we travel around the country,” Tom Roepke, vice president of operations for the Madison-area office, said. “We don’t come in and snatch up all the work for our own forces. We go in and open it up to whatever subcontractors are available in that marketplace.”

The coordination work is crucial, especially on a job as complex as a Cabela’s store, Hinderman said.

“It’s definitely not your (typical) big-box retail building,” Hinderman said. “There are the specialty items, and there’s a lot of bits and pieces that go into these.”

“It’s important to make sure that it looks great when it’s done, and that everything integrates correctly from a connection standpoint structurally,” Roepke added.

Between 1998 and 2005, Kraus-Anderson built the majority of Cabela’s stores going up around the country, Roepke said. The relationship began when one of Kraus-Anderson’s construction superintendents in Minneapolis, who happened to be “an avid hunter and fisherman,” Roepke said, saw a newspaper story about a Cabela’s that was to be built in nearby Owatonna, Minnesota.

“He said, ‘Hey, this is right up our alley,’ so he contacted Cabela’s (about getting the project) and it was sort of off to the races from there,” Roepke said.

As Cabela’s grew and prospered, branching out far beyond its headquarters in Sidney, Nebraska, and becoming a public company in 2004, it added three or four more general contractors as needed to split the workload, depending on the speed of the company’s expansion around the country at any one time and other demands on the general contractors’ schedules.

Beyond its work with Cabela’s around the country, the Madison-area office of Kraus-Anderson, which employs about 30 people, has done major area jobs including Gunderson Lutheran Hospital projects in La Crosse, and work for Waukesha-based Wilde Automotive Group, including the new Wilde East Towne Honda in Madison.

But Kraus-Anderson’s ties to Cabela’s remain tight, and Roepke expected to get some of the 17 new stores Cabela’s has on its drawing board in the next two years. Roepke and his top team have deep experience with the client — Hinderman has worked on five Cabela’s stores, while Roepke and project superintendent Greg Deppa both have completed 15 or 16 stores over the years.

In addition, since 2011, Cabela’s has tapped Kraus-Anderson to do seven remodeling jobs at stores the contractor originally built in Minnesota, South Dakota, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas, as Kraus-Anderson increasingly comes “full circle” on its construction jobs for Cabela’s, Roepke said.

And in January the company will renovate the Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska — a store Kraus-Anderson didn’t build originally, but is honored to be asked to renovate because it’s next to Cabela’s corporate headquarters.

“So we definitely understand how they go together and how to get everybody lined up to march through them, because they do go up relatively quickly,” Roepke said.

In recent years, Cabela’s has been adding fireplaces to its design schemes for new stores, Roepke said, as well as changing how it displays its taxidermy — increasingly moving the mounts to display shelves higher up on the walls to leave more of the floor space for merchandise.

In Sun Prairie, after the concrete slabs finish drying, Hinderman said the remaining tasks would include framing the interior walls, roughing in the electrical and mechanical systems and putting up the dry wall. Rough carpentry, millwork, interior wood sidings and cabinet work come after that, with final painting, flooring and finishes to be done last, before Cabela’s staffers come in to arrange all the merchandise and floor displays.

Kraus-Anderson’s contract calls for handing over the finished building to Cabela’s around March 1, with Cabela’s to announce the grand opening after that.

“We’re just proud of the opportunity to be here and to have a project like this to serve this area,” Roepke said.

“It’s sort of a legacy project,” he added. “You know, some jobs, you just build a box and there’s not a lot to it. But this is something that I think serves a good purpose and it’s something where people in the area shop at it and it’s usually a very enjoyable experience.”


Karen Rivedal is the education beat reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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