Metal franchise cuts into market
An international metal-supply franchise is settling into the market and hoping to fill retail and B2B gaps in the region’s metal industry.
Brian Fojtik, the franchisee of Metal Supermarkets in Kentwood, said the store operates similarly to a lumberyard, where customers can come in off the street and buy the exact size and type of metal they need for a project.
Metal Supermarkets is located just west of the Ford airport, at 4141 Barden Dr. SE.
“It’s not like a Menards where you walk in, and you have to buy the full bar or sheet,” Fojtik said. “They might cut it for you, but you have to buy the full sheet. In this case, you come in and buy exactly the size you want.”
Metal Supermarkets, which opened this summer, sells a wide range of metal: aluminum, stainless steel, regular steel, hot-rolled and cold-rolled steel, in bars, rounds and squares.
Fojtik added that the store has nearly “every shape and size.”
The Metal Supermarkets franchise started as a store outside of Toronto in 1985 and has grown to 72 stores in Canada, the U.S. and England.
Fojtik owns the only Michigan store and has the option of opening stores in Holland and Muskegon. He said his goal is to open a Holland location next.
Fojtik said when he was looking at franchise options, Metal Supermarkets seemed like the right fit.
“I didn’t want a fad business, like cupcake tops or yogurt shops,” he said.
He said after 30 years in the region, he recognized Metal Supermarkets as a niche business that would cater to a market that wasn’t being served in the area.
He said retailers like Lowe’s have a limited offering when it comes to metal, and the big steel companies are focused on vast quantities of metal, leaving the in-between customer with nowhere to turn.
Lowe’s has already embraced Metal Supermarkets, allowing Fojtik to set up a table in the store.
“They don’t handle bigger sizes of metal,” he said. “They handle small stuff, and they like it, because when their customers have that need, they can send them to me, but they are buying all their other stuff from them.”
Fojtik said the typical customer breakdown for an established Metal Supermarkets store is 80 percent business-to-business customers and 20 percent walk-ins and hobbyists and that is what he expects for his location.
Fojtik is seeing interest from all types of clients. He noted his first customer was building a stainless-steel backsplash in a kitchen.
“It’s fun, because no two projects are the same,” he said.
“Really, our ideal customer is a maintenance person at an Amway or Steelcase or Lacks, where I’m not providing production steel for them, but they have projects they’ve got to get done,” he said. “They’ve got to get a line back up, and they need some steel right now. I can cut it for them, and they can get back in business. They don’t have wait or buy a full bar or sheet they don’t need.”
Business customers are already taking advantage of Metal Supermarkets’ services and multiple production saws.
Fojtik said he has a client that builds metal painting racks used for electro-static painting of plastic parts. The business was previously cutting its own small metal pieces as part of its process, but is now doing business with Fojtik.
“They were cutting themselves or hired a machine shop to do it, and they said, ‘Hey, will you cut this for me?” he said. “We might do 5,000 little 2-inch pieces, and instead of having somebody sit there with their little saw, this automatic saw can cut and advance, cut and advance.”