Business Monday: Freeborn Lumber opens in Albert Lea

Published 9:01 am Monday, September 15, 2008

Last week, almost a year to the day after the entire east side of Freeborn Lumber Co. in Freeborn burned to the ground, the company opened its new facility on Plaza Street in Albert Lea.

It closed its doors in Freeborn Sept. 5.

“It was sad to leave Freeborn because my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were there, but we think it was the right decision business-wise,” said Tiffany Kriesel, daughter of Freeborn Lumber Co. owner John Miller.

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Miller said he was relieved when the 21,000-square-foot building opened in Albert Lea Sept. 8, after they had broken ground at that location the last week in April.

“To do a process like this in 4 1/2 months is incredible,” he said.

On Sept. 7, 2007, lightning struck the business in Freeborn, sparking a blaze that destroyed all of the offices of the company, along with the original part of the lumberyard, including three storage sheds.

The company set up a temporary office at the old fire hall in Freeborn, and the inventory that was lost was replaced. Miller made plans to open a new facility in Albert Lea and sold the land in Freeborn the old building was on.

Now, in the single week Freeborn Lumber Co. has been open at its new location right off Interstate 90, there’s already been an increase in walk-in traffic compared to what it was like in Freeborn, he said. It’s also been more convenient for a majority of building contractors.

Freeborn Lumber Co.

971 Plaza St.

Albert Lea


The 21,000-square-foot building — including the offices, the showroom, the storage room and the loading area — is similar to the square footage of the facility in Freeborn before the fire.

The showroom is about the same, with no new products at this time; however, there could be more products added later on down the road, Kriesel and Miller said. Though the company has no plans of being a hardware store, it does have basic items.

It also has a new outdoor living area, which will showcase outdoor fireplaces and fences. Miller said he’s excited about it.

He said the company is adjusting to the experience of being in a more populated area and dealing with more traffic. Freeborn has 290 residents. Albert Lea has 17,552, according to the 2007 census estimates.

“It’s a learning process, and we’ll try to adapt in what and how to do it,” he said. “We’re extremely excited about the opportunity.”

Miller noted that the community of Albert Lea, especially the city, has been helpful in getting the new building up and running.

“They’ve been very informative and helpful,” he said. “The city has been exceptional.”

There will be a grand opening in mid-to-late October, with a specific date yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, hours will be the same as they were in Freeborn, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Thursday until 8 p.m. Depending on the demand, those hours could be expanded.