New Building for Door County Co-op’s Appliance Avenue


Diversification has been key to the success of the Door County Co-operative, which was started as a fuel distribution business by a collective of farmers back in 1939.

“To this day we still run a business similar to that,” said Co-op President and CEO Brian Duquaine about the co-op’s propane business. “It’s run fundamentally the same as it was in ’39. A board of directors is elected by the membership. I’m hired by the board.”

Brian Duquaine

Brian Duquaine

Sturgeon Bay native Duquaine served as controller for the business until 1999, when he was elevated to his current position. In 2010 he left for Washington state to run a similar operation there – Skagit Farmers Supply – but he returned to his old position last March, where he oversees a variety of businesses and 85 employees.

In addition to the propane business and the co-op’s Country Store, the co-op also has a True Value Hardware store, NAPA Auto Parts, Cellcom, America’s Mattress, Appliance Avenue, a feed mill in Shirley, and Pro Lawn, a lawn treatment company.

“Our Appliance Avenue business is something we’ve been in for a long time, and it’s been growing and has shared space in our hardware store,” Duqaine said. “It’s gotten to the point where it’s expanded, along with Cellcom, and we’ve added America’s Mattress Gallery. It’s gotten to the point where it needs its own storefront to continue to grow.”

The co-op purchased the vacant Warner Wholesale building at 938 Egg Harbor Road, Sturgeon Bay, and hired Bayland Buildings as the general contractor to convert the 12,560 square foot building into space for the co-op businesses, including Appliance Avenue, America’s Mattress Gallery and Cellcom, with an expected opening in February.

“I think giving it its own storefront and being on the main retail corridor in Sturgeon Bay is going to be a big plus. It will give it its own identity,” Duquaine said. “We branded it as Appliance Avenue some years ago but it’s always shared a location. Now it’s going to grow. That gives us an opportunity to expand our Country Store and True Value hardware store.”

Duquaine is quick to point out that agriculture remains an important but part of the co-op’s business, but as the role of agriculture continues to change in the county, the retail side of the co-op balances things out.

“Every acre of farm land that is sold off as a development, we’ve got our lawn division or our swimming pool sales and service. There’s our hardware store. We sell appliances to condos north of the bay all the time,” Duquaine said. “We had to do that, but it doesn’t take anything away from our ag division.”

The co-op continues in the spirit that it began.

“The idea is the co-op is here to help people. If there is a change in industry or a trend, or a piece of equipment, the collective group steps up and does that. Of course, it still has to be a good business decision for the company.

“The technical side has become much more technical. The days of just putting on fertilizer is changing,” he continued. “Nutrient management plans, specifically testing soils for the right needs and coming back with recommendations, precision application, machines that actually through GPS and mapping programs, will develop a variable rate based on analysis of the soil. It doesn’t just blanket fertilizer on, but where it needs it. Again, much more technical than it ever had been in the past.”

With agronomy experts on staff, Duquaine said the co-op is poised for the Department of Natural Resources reorganization that will put more responsibility on the producer and certified consultants for permitting.

“We take the approach of having consultants on staff. We try to be full service that way,” he said. “Sometimes that can affect your ability to be the lowest priced, but we find a pretty good balance. We try to bring it all together for them. Our people know the area, know the fields and other farms in the area, seeds issues. There will be some challenges along the way, but the producers and farmers we work with really believe in being good stewards of the land. In the end, they are becoming more efficient if they can minimize the amount of passes they make on a field, they can minimize the amount of fertilizers they have to apply. It’s better for everyone. It’s advancing in the right way. Let’s face it, we need technology to continue to feed the number of people we have on the Earth.”


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