Episode 82

Published on:

22nd Aug 2023

Drexel Building Supply's Blue Door District with Joel Fleischman

Hey friends! This week, I chat with Joel Fleischman, the CEO & President of Drexel Building Supply. Drexel's building a huge manufacturing facility called The Blue Door District right in Kewaskum. The Blue Door District is set to bring 100 jobs to the community! Joel talks about what makes Drexel's culture stand out, some of the factors behind the company's success, and how the Blue Door District is going to be great for Kewaskum.

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Fuzz Martin 0:00

s home for me. In February of:

Fuzz Martin 1:16

Joel, thanks for joining me today. Can we talk for a bit about the history of Drexel. You guys have been around for like–since '85 Right?

Joel Fleischman 1:23

Yeah. Thanks for having me. Yeah.

Fuzz Martin 1:24

How did Drexel get started?

Joel Fleischman 1:26

My mom and dad started in:

Fuzz Martin 2:09

Wow. And then Drexel grew from there, right? And so how many locations do you guys have now?

Joel Fleischman 2:14

We currently have nine locations, six supply yards, and three manufacturing plants.

Fuzz Martin 2:21

I know you're growing and we'll talk a little bit about some of the growth coming up here. But what's that long term vision for Drexel, you guys are in a in a growth pattern, right?

Joel Fleischman 2:30

Yeah, we've always grown about 20% a year. That's just Mario Andretti says "you're not going fast enough if you're not spinning a little bit out of the corners." So we don't grow just to grow. But it does make us better makes us stronger. My dad always said, "if a tree isn't growing, it's dying." Not everything. Kewaskum. Right. I mean, you do have to just keep looking forward. Also really helps our builders, so we can bring in better products for them. It helps our team because it creates growth opportunities for our team in different careers. So that's why we grow 20% a year. What does that look like? When I started? We had eight people we currently have over 800.

Fuzz Martin 3:11

Oh, wow. Okay.

Joel Fleischman 3:12

That's kind of what that looks like. What our future looks like, is really someone on a Kwik Trip model, Costco Kirkland brand model, we want to make now that with our volume and our buying power, we want to be more in control the pandemic learn that we want to make more things ourself, we want to buy things more directly, we want to have our own brand, which is the blue door brand. That really means it's a trusted product, which means we buy it better than maybe the industry standard product at a lower price point. And bring that to the marketplace.

Fuzz Martin 3:46

Sure. And by controlling that and owning that you guys can have better control over costs and how that goes down to the customer

Joel Fleischman 3:53

quality controls cost. better integration, as we call it, vertical integration, speed to the ball, less touches. So yes, much better price point for the builder, but a much better quality because it's full, integrated communication. A finished carpenter in West Bend can give us feedback, which we can take to the plant and make an immediate change. And he might see them the next job globally. Oh, really? Okay. It without vertical integration. We're just giving feedback to a third party, second party, fourth hand knowledge to a manufacturer. The odds of that being improved are very, very small.

Fuzz Martin 4:28

Most of your locations are in south central, southeastern Wisconsin, and you have some that are kind of pushing towards Central, right?

Joel Fleischman 4:35

Yeah, correct. We have Columbus, which is Madison market, New Berlin, which was formerly Brookfield built new in New Berlin, external Milwaukee, of course, Campbellsport here, and then we have Wrightstown, which takes care of the Fox Valley, Berlin, which is more of that central Wisconsin, and then over to Kiel, which takes care of that door Kony all the way down through the Grafton Cedarburg area.

Fuzz Martin 4:57

Are you guys looking in your expansion to stay within Wisconsin. Are you ever looking to branch out?

Joel Fleischman 5:02

I'll never say never. I never thought we'd have more than 15 people in our company. So we do a lot of things that I've never thought we would do. Sure, yeah. But I am not a world traveler under my legacy. I have a hard time believing that. But I would not say never our focus really is that vertical integration going forward the next five years. Yeah, it's just like a personal life. I think it's really hard to forecast anything beyond five years.

Fuzz Martin 5:26

Totally agree with that. So your brand, let's talk about the Drexel brand for a minute. It's very prominent, obviously, blue everywhere. It's great. But it's more than just the brand. You've your culture. People who work for Drexel people to talk about Drexel that that brand and culture comes through and everything that you guys do. You've got your supply, happiness tagline? What's it like for the employees at Drexel, and the people that that work there, and why is that culture so important to you?

Joel Fleischman 5:50

Yeah, we never do employee. So it's all words matter of our team member team member. Okay. Yeah, I never wanted to be an employee. So I don't want anyone to be an employee, I'd rather be a team member, which is what it really is, we are ESOP owned, I'm selling shares of my stock. So everyone here is an owner, they get shares of stock as we're just working here. But what's it like a lot of people say they didn't realize what it was like till they started here, they didn't really think up sure place can be that positive and fun. It's really hiring positive people, first of all, and then just letting them go, you know, and training them up for their mastery, really getting them via really, really proud of your craft, you want to be a master of your craft. So a lot of training, a lot of focus on training. But at the end of the day, it is about supply and happiness and our 11 core values. And if you don't align with that, you're not going to work here. That's that's like a really real, real real thing, which people don't understand until they're here for like a week. And they're like, so that wasn't just orientation. And we're like, no, that's what we do.

Fuzz Martin 6:51

In my own business, we're always striving for that. And it's great to see other companies who put that much into their culture and their experience. We have one employee who used to work at Drexel, I don't know why she doesn't work at Drexel anymore, but she still talks about how great the culture was there

Joel Fleischman 7:06

Not everyone works out. That's okay, too. It's okay to Yeah.

Fuzz Martin 7:11

On top of all that, you're, I'm very impressed with how Drexel gives back to the communities that you have locations in obviously, Campbellsport, very Drexel blue, Blue Door Coffee is awesome. You sport Kewaskum athletics, what's that driver behind giving back to the communities that you're in

Joel Fleischman 7:26

At the end of the day, I'm a God guy, pretty spiritual guy. I do think there's something about the karma, the universe or God, the more you give, the more you do get. I feel we have a moral obligation, a sense of pride, a sense of community, a sense of who we are, it's part of our culture. We're always going to give back we do say it all the time, you know, people over profits. And a million companies say that, but that's part of giving back to the community. That's part of our community. It's been so good to us, our builders have been so good to us. The least we can do. The very least we can do is give back and it does seem the more we give, the more God gives us gifts. So we're proud to do it.

Fuzz Martin 8:05

That's wonderful. Back in February, Drexel announced that you'd be purchasing some land on the edge of the village of Kewaskum. And building a new manufacturing facility called The Blue Door District. What can we expect? What is tell us about what's going on there? Oh, it's

Joel Fleischman 8:20

It's a really, really big facility. I think that's probably the one thing that people may not quite understand of us doing. It's over a mile and concrete walls. It's eight and a half acres undercover. Well, okay, so kind of the get that in your brain is kind of hard. It's hard for me. Yeah. Like I look at it. I'm like, that's a big place. So that's gonna be the cool part. That's probably the big factor.

Fuzz Martin 8:45

That location will produce? What will you be producing?

Joel Fleischman 8:48

Doors and millwork. Okay, for our in house use doors. And that will be state of the art fully robotic, one of the only one in North America. It's going to be very, very, very high tech. We'll do a lot of pre finishing there. Mostly finishing is being done on doors and trim with eyeballs. This will all be done with lasers. Auto pick, Oh, wow. Okay. It's very manual labor. If you go to any cabinet shop door millwork shop, this will be primarily robotic, truly robotic, not just automated, which is maybe more of a catch term.

Fuzz Martin 9:19

Sure. But you'll still have approximately 100 employees there, right?

Joel Fleischman 9:23

Yeah, it's going to be really cool. So right now out of Jackson, there's about 60 people that work there. And that's just was one shift. So we'll be bringing those people over expanding shifts. And yeah, 100 will be probably the starting point that probably is be on one shift. We can probably expand to 300 people at some point when we go to three shifts, eventually and that will do three times what we're doing currently, at least more than that, nine times more with shifts, but 10 times more big numbers

Fuzz Martin 9:56

in my role being having seen where the started as to where it currently is, it's, it's really cool to see this project coming to life and some of the even the growth from the initial plans that you had put together. So we obviously in the village of Kewaskum, appreciate it. But from a business side, just seeing, seeing that it's just, it's really cool. Yeah,

Joel Fleischman:

I should mention to half of it, approximately half of its going to be our central distribution as well. Okay, so our doors, windows, and cabinets, and trim will all come out of that facility. So currently, it takes about eight people to touch it from the manufacturing, to our supply stores, and then back to the job site. We'll get that down to four touches. Oh, so that'll be there'll be quite a few deliveries coming out of there. There'll be over 100 deliveries a day out of that location. Looks great. That'd be much more streamlined. Yeah. Again, that vertical integration opportunities. Excellent.

Fuzz Martin:

How do you see Drexel's presence in the Blue Door District impacting our local community, especially in terms of economic growth in in those job opportunities?

Joel Fleischman:

Yeah, man, I think it's gonna be some great jobs. But of course, I would say that, but beyond. Beyond that, we love to give back to our community, every community that we're in, our team loves to eat, we like to go for have a few beers. You got that many people working there. I think you'll seal if you see if you think you see Drexel sweatshirts in Kewaskum. Now, just wait, the blue waves come in. Perfect.

Fuzz Martin:

See, I bought some countertops. So I got a hat with the countertops. And then I bought some more countertops for the bathrooms, vanities and I've got a nice t shirt that I wear. So we appreciate the business. We're going to need doors and windows here too. So well look, yeah. Appreciate that. When will the Blue Door District be up and running,

Joel Fleischman:

We will not be up and running until 2025. Okay, the robots alone are out about 12 months, sure, to large large scale projects, you're going to be seen dirt there moved all for a long time, there's to be a lot of dirt move. It's not only the building, you have to move, you have to get all the the entire district with the light, working with the DNR closely sure if I hit all those permits, and make sure the water all runs appropriately and doing all the right things with that with the roads and making sure all the roads are safe. So there's a lot of work there.

Fuzz Martin:

So what's next for Drexel? Past the Blue Door District? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

Joel Fleischman:

Within the Blue Door District? We're looking or are okay, yeah, we're

Fuzz Martin:

Or just Drexel as a whole?

Joel Fleischman:

No, that's our focus right now, that's going to be about a $50 million operation. Well, so a lot of the capital investments going there. But we are always working on for about seven different companies under one umbrella. Again, similar going to Costco, you know, there's there's a largest wine cellar in the world, right. So similar that we have different companies under umbrella. And they always have unique projects going on. We'd love off site construction, which is manufactured speeding up the framing process down to we're bringing in new cabinetry lines. Currently. Today alone, I just dropped out of our monthly sales training. So a lot of it has been brought to in house trainers just to train our team every single day. So that's new, lots of new stuff. It's hard to even keep up sometimes as the owner of so the dynamic team doing really cool. cutting edge stuff. That's great. Well, that's why I don't have any hair.

Fuzz Martin:

If if someone wants to explore either a career at Drexel, or becoming a customer at Drexel, where what's the best way to start

Joel Fleischman:

DrexelTeam.com is our website. Thank you, mic drop on that. We're on all the social media platforms, you go right to careers page, my cell phone number is 920-979-4045. That's part of our culture and part of who we are. I'm super transparent. You want to call me direct, I'll send you in the right spots, on anything.

Fuzz Martin:

That's fantastic. And again, kudos to you having more than 800 employees and being able to maintain a culture such as Blue Door does or Drexel does is just it's really impressive. Congrats to you and your family for all that you've done. And thanks for what you're doing for the community.

Joel Fleischman:

Back to you guys. Kewaskum has been nothing but wonderful to work with. And they've been made it super easy, make it super fun, but also made it very, very impactful made the decision very easy. They were very very accommodating, welcoming, I've been born and raised in Kewaskum. So I gotta say that go Indians, but it has been it has been a joy. We've worked with a lot of communities. Some are great to work with. Some are difficult and Kewaskum has been one of the best.

Fuzz Martin:

Perfect thanks so much. Thank you so much again to Joe Fleischmann, President and CEO of Drexel Building Supply for joining me to talk about the Blue Door District which is currently being built on Highway 28 On the west side of Kewaskum. Again, it's going to be a wonderful addition to the village and again thank you to you for listening today. If you liked the show, please be sure to hit the "Follow" button new episodes launch every Tuesday. And and I like to learn new things. So if you have an idea for the show, please email me fifteenwithfuzz@gmail.com that is fifteenwithfuzz@gmail.com spell out the word "fifteen" instead of using the numbers. All of the episodes of this show are available at fifteenwithfuzz.com. I hope the rest of your week is fantastic. And I will talk to you again next Tuesday. Right here on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.

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Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz
Showcasing the positive things happening in Washington County, Wisconsin.
Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz is sheds light on all the great things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. The host, Fuzz Martin, is a local business owner (EPIC Creative) and a former radio personality (92.5 WBWI - now Buzz Country). New episodes launch on Tuesday mornings. https://fifteenwithfuzz.com

Whether you're in West Bend, Kewaskum, Slinger, Hartford, Germantown, Richfield, Jackson, or anywhere else in the area, 15 Minutes with Fuzz serves the community with fun and positive people, places, events, and attractions.

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Fuzz Martin

Fuzz Martin is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at EPIC Creative in West Bend, Wis.