Reel transformation

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Melton Design Build overhauls dilapidated body shop to create upscale fly-fishing retail store.

March 25, 2013
A new steel beam installed in the existing CMU wall between sales areas provided

A new steel beam installed in the existing CMU wall between sales areas provided a large opening that connected the spaces.

Three years ago, owner Bill Leuchten decided his fly-fishing shop had outgrown its existing space and went looking for a new home and presence in Boulder, Colo., to continue its development. After settling on an old masonry building, Leuchten engaged customer Josh Fiester, a project development manager with local design-build firm Melton Design Build, in April 2010 about a complete renovation of the store’s new home.

Front Range Anglers, established in 1982, had been confined to about 2,000 square feet of bottom-floor retail in its previous location, with no walkability or pedestrian access. Leuchten sought additional space for displaying and testing fishing gear, as well as for gatherings, and wanted to create a space respectful of the traditions and culture of the fishing community.

While Leuchten closed the deal to buy the building, Fiester and the Melton team began crafting a design solution for the newfound space, which had been used as an automotive repair shop in Boulder since the 1940s. The garage still housed lift-jack stations and required considerable lead and asbestos cleanup, among other impediments.

Leuchten established a budget of $350,000 initially but revised that number up to $500,000 after comprehending the challenges in transforming a dingy shell of concrete and metal into an upscale sport fishing retail store.

“[Leuchten] had a budget and, realizing that that space was going to be a little more complicated than his budget was going to allow, we had to work with him to come up with a reasonable amount to get the thing done,” says Fiester. “Once he realized the magnitude of the project, he basically said, ‘I just want to get this building done right; I don’t want to have any issues.’”

From the garage to the pond

The design phase took about three months, and Leuchten agreed to a contract estimate of $493,624 at the end of July 2010. Construction started in the beginning of September.

Both parties placed emphasis on opening up the space and providing an inviting visual connection between the upper and lower levels. The upper level, located at the front of the building, once served as the sales and waiting area for the body shop. The lower level, just a few descending steps from the front of the store, had been the garage.

A large concrete wall divided the existing sales and garage areas; in order to unify the space, Melton removed the wall and installed a new steel beam for structural support, enabling more fluid movement between the upper and lower sales areas.

Large overhead garage doors with few windows limited the amount of natural lighting, so Melton replaced them with fixed window openings and added a generous amount of glazing to harness more sunlight.

Melton gave keen attention to the size, shape, and placement of display cases, fixtures, and service counters to maximize sales potential while maintaining comfortable space for circulation and product display.

The firm helped Leuchten design and build custom fixtures to house the shop’s fly rods and other equipment. Suspended from the ceiling, a cross-shaped rod rack and slat wall panels displayed the store’s products while appearing to hover in the air. The floating rod rack in particular had never been used in any other fly shop, says Fiester.

Company Snapshot

Company: Melton Design Build

Owner: Ty Melton

Location: Boulder, Colo.

2012 sales volume: $5.2 million

Projected 2013 sales volume: $5.8 million


Leuchten wanted the shop’s office, which was near the cash register at the front of the store, to have one-way glass so that he could see customers come and go without them seeing into his office. Leuchten also desired flooring with a vintage wood look but sought something more durable, so Melton installed a vinyl wood floor that satisfied both conditions. To add even more of an outdoor feel, Fiester placed quarter sections of a 40-foot tall pine tree in the interior corners of the shop.

Insulating the great outdoors

Because the building was basically concrete with a metal roof, significant upgrades were needed to bring the structure up to current energy codes. Melton enhanced the electrical service and mechanical systems, but the bulk of effort went into properly insulating the walls and ceiling.

The ceiling in particular required careful consideration. Melton’s design solution took advantage of the industrial character of the existing building by keeping the bar joist roof structure exposed in what was once the garage area.

To achieve this look, the firm had to find a way to add rigid insulation to the ceiling of the lower sales area without removing the bar joists; otherwise, the job would have called for dry walling below the joists, which would have lowered the ceiling by about two feet and mirrored the dropped ceiling in the upper sales area.

Melton decided to try something different and dry wall between the joists, satisfying insulation standards while also preserving the higher ceiling.

“Most people would have had to put that dropped ceiling everywhere, but we worked with the city of Boulder to meet the energy requirements and retain that look of the higher ceiling,” says Fiester. “That was a pretty creative detail that I hadn’t seen done before.”

Before construction even started, Melton had to undergo a complete site and use review with the city of Boulder because the building required a zoning change to retail. Boulder issued the permit in early August.

Wading through challenges

Melton figured it could install flooring over the existing concrete slab but discovered motor oil had soaked two inches down into it; as a result, the firm had to raise all of the door openings and pour a whole new slab.

Fortunately, the crew realized the condition of the existing concrete floor relatively early in the construction process. The same could not be said about the hydraulic fluid buried 20 feet below the ground.

“We didn’t figure that out until pretty far along in the project, and we had to do the right thing as far as an environmental cleanup perspective,” says Fiester.

Melton hired a company to come in and extract the liquid waste before it laid the new concrete slab. Despite the setback, the firm was able to stay on schedule and completed the project before Thanksgiving, on the day it told Leuchten the job would be finished.

Hauling it in

Leuchten was actively involved in the project from the beginning and visited the site daily. Melton received such positive feedback from the owner that the firm worked with him again on a smaller job in his home, says Fiester.

The Front Range Anglers project incurred a few change orders, which totaled $17,045, says Fiester. The additions were mainly a result of Leuchten’s desire to add more light and alter window sizes, but a sizeable driveway outside the shop that was not part of the original scope contributed to the increase.

The final cost of the project was $476,579, which looks to be under budget because Melton was able to pass on the change-order amount as cost savings to Leuchten, says Fiester.

The new site of Front Range Anglers is located in a section of a strip mall that was previously underutilized, but the shop has become an anchor and spurred further retail development there, says Fiester. Leuchten’s dual ownership of the business and the property helped ensure a successful product.

“In most tenant finishes, they’re only going to be in the space for a couple of years, and they don’t look at it as a lifetime investment,” says Fiester. “[This project] really provided us the ability to do a really good job and not cut any corners.” PR

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