FRANKENMUTH, MI — Anywhere you drive in Michigan and neighboring states, you’re bound to come across a highway sign touting Bronner’s, “the world’s largest Christmas store.” Few people will dispute that title.

The complex spans over 27 acres and 240,000 sq ft of floor space (retail and shop). Bronner’s continues to grow as the store’s popularity soars.

The newest addition to the sprawling complex affords space for catalog and Internet sales and shipping. This addition is large enough to accommodate two 1,900-sq-ft bins of “peanuts,” the foam insulation used in packaging items for shipping.

During the busy holiday season, semi-trucks with peanuts roll in every other day and fill up the bins. “It looks like it’s snowing in here when they blow in the peanuts,” Laux said.

Another 18,000-sq-ft area is the former sign shop, where, along with another shipping area, is the company’s woodshop. Laux’s assistant maintenance manager, Dennis Pfund, spends a lot of time creating displays and other projects there.

“We make picture frames for special prints that we give to employees who have worked for Bronner’s for five years,” Pfund said.

There are areas “behind the scenes” where employees refurbish outdoor and indoor displays and work on repairing animated characters. “It’s a full-time job painting figurines,” added Laux.

Maintaining Comfort

With so much square footage to cover, the task of keeping customers and employees comfortable is a monumental one. The new addition has two Trane air handlers to cool most of the building. A separate, smaller Trane unit cools a separate room where custom Christmas ornaments are decorated. It is imperative that this room has its own system because of the delicate work going on involving paint and related fumes.

There are a total of eight air handlers in the original building and three in a 1990 addition. The original building houses Bronner’s telephone operators. The company employs 16-18 operators on each shift and has a total of 40 operators on staff. Each takes phone orders in four hour shifts every day, spanning normal business hours from the Eastern time zone to the Pacific time zone.

With 725 tons of cooling capacity drawing on two 200-ton chillers, there is a big need to distribute the output to all areas of the complex on a moment’s notice. The central cooling system can be accessed from any of 96 computer terminals, utilizing the Metasys System from Johnson Controls. A Tracer Summit runs the air handlers and the ice storage equipment.

Three Burnham boilers, each with 52.2 hp gross output, heat the entire complex except the new shipping area, which may be a little “overkill.”

“We really only need one because of all of the lighting,” said Laux. “The offices are the only places that really need the heat.”

Laux keeps his staff of 60 people busy throughout the year, whether the job is shipping or building maintenance. His staff has grown by 20 people in the last year, and with all of the expansion and increased traffic, it’s likely that he could be adding more people soon. But none will have the résumé that Laux boasts of (he’s a “lifer”).

“I’ve worked here since I was a high school senior in 1966,” he said. Seems that some people can never get enough of the Christmas spirit.

For more information, visit the company’s website at

Publication date: 12/25/2000