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North Dakota company buys Puckett’s


The company name and the faces will remain the same at Puckett Electric Tools Inc., which has been operated by the Puckett family for 50 years, but ownership will change July 1. Acme Electric, a family-owned business in North Dakota for 56 years, has bought the Puckett operation – the headquarters at 841 11th St. and branch stores in Waukee and Cedar Rapids — for an undisclosed price. The total annual sales volume at the three stores is approximately $5 million, according to company president Dennis Puckett.

“The arrangement says all of our current employees will stay with the company,” said Puckett, who started working at the business 37 years ago. His father, the late Dick Puckett, bought an existing company in 1954. “I told them I’d stay on another five years, then I’d like to semi-retire,” Puckett said.

The new owners plan to keep the well-established Puckett name on the buildings, and they hope to expand operations in Waukee. That branch is currently located at 465 Alice’s Road.

Puckett Electric specializes in supplying power tools to contractors, and Puckett said that part of the business continues to grow. However, its retail sales to the general public have been hit by the proliferation of large discount stores, Internet shopping and mail-order outlets. Acme Electric, a Grand Forks company with a business plan similar to Puckett’s for most of its existence, took advantage of the trend by selling its “Tool Crib of the North” catalog business to Amazon.com in 1999.

“I spent the past four years working for Amazon.com as part of the deal,” said Steve Kuhlman, son of Acme’s founder and the company’s vice president of business development. “Now I’m looking to expand into other markets, and Puckett’s is the first acquisition in that effort. We’d like to look at other businesses in South Dakota and Minnesota, too.” The company already operates four stores in North Dakota and one in Minnesota.

The Puckett and Kuhlman families have known one another for years. Buyout talks started last fall, Puckett said.

Dennis Puckett has run the operation for 25 years and four siblings are involved as owners. His brother Darrell runs the Cedar Rapids store and his sister Becky has been the Des Moines store’s office manager for 30 years. Brother-in-law Keith Goodwin has worked for Puckett’s for 36 years. The company employs about 25 people at its three locations.

“It was critical that if we did sell, it would be to someone who would continue our name and quality,” Puckett said. “It was a hard decision, but at the end we thought it was the right decision. The big-box stores and mail-order companies are forcing small businesses to get bigger or die.”

Kuhlman said Acme would like to expand Puckett’s offerings to include more product lines, such as lawn and garden equipment.

To make room for such changes, “we would like to look at a new location with a larger showroom,” Kuhlman said. “The store in Waukee is doing very well, so we’d like to look for more space in that area.”

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