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Credit union coming to fill Eckert Door site on Wauwatosa's State Street

The vacant Eckert Door Co. at 6510 W. State St.

The vacant Eckert Door Co. at 6510 W. State St.

Nov. 13, 2013

Changing economics and consumer tastes have affected the garage door business, but it was the death of its founders that spelled the end for Eckert Door Co.

Eckert Door, owned for 50 years by Robert and Mary Jane Eckert, is out of business, and its site, filled with a sprawling hodge-podge of structures at 6510 W. State St., is likely to be occupied by a trim, square branch of the UW Credit Union.

The Plan Commission unanimously approved a change of zoning and a conditional-use application for the credit union this week.

The site, directly south of Walgreen's, holds one of the last remaining industrial buildings on the north side of State Street. With Metcalfe's Market, the proposed credit union, Carstar auto body shop at 6242 W. State, and the planned arrival of Central Bark doggy day care at 6228 W. State, Grede Foundry is the last remaining manufacturer in that stretch of a quickly diminishing industrial corridor.

A block east of the doggy day care, in The Reserve and The Enclave, reside people who are increasing demand for the retail and customer-service businesses that are arriving. And more potential customers will be coming if a proposed apartment project by Wangard Partners, behind the foundry, is successful.

The credit union expects to break ground in the spring, and be up and running about a year later, said Brad McClain, executive vice president of the Madison-based UW Credit Union.

The end of Eckert Door

Eckert Door specialized in garage doors made of wood, said Brad Hershey, owner of GD Corp., in surburban Chicago, one of Eckert's customers.

"They were around for a long time; that was a family business for a long time," Hershey said.

Robert Eckert died in 2010 at the age of 72, and his wife, Mary Jane, died in March. The business closed shortly thereafter.

At the same time, the market for wooden garage doors has shrunk, Hershey said. Raynor Garage Doors, a major manufacturer, discontinued making wooden doors this month, and Eckert's business was caught up in that trend.

Insulation, low maintenance

"People want high insulation, they want low maintenance; that's what everybody wants," Hershey said. Most doors sold today are galvanized and painted steel, and most have lifetime warranties on the finish against rust or paint problems.

"On the high end, there's still some custom wood doors being made," he said. But keeping a wooden door stained drives up cost, and today, some manufacturers make very convincing wood-looking doors that hold up well.

The company's inventory and equipment has been auctioned off, and the name Eckert and its phone number have been purchased by D&G Garage Doors & Openers, a Milwaukee installer, said Dustin Gerdman, an owner of the company.

Credit union expanding

UW Credit Union is one of the top five credit unions in the state in terms of asset size, and accepts as members those who live or work within five miles of a UW Credit Union branch office, University of Wisconsin System employees, former employees, students and alumni, and family and household members of those members, among a number of other categories, according to its website.

This is the credit union's second branch in Wauwatosa — the other is on Mayfair Road, across the street from Mayfair Mall — and its sixth in the Milwaukee area. There are about two dozen branches in Madison and around the state.

The 5,000-square-foot branch will have drive-through lanes on the back, or north, side, including two ATM lanes, and an ATM inside the front door, McClain said. The credit union's ATMs do not charge a surcharge.

Alderman Dennis McBride, who represents the area, praised McClain for accepting city recommendations for changes to the site plan and the architecture.

"The UW Credit Union has given every indication of wanting to be a good neighbor, to comply with our comprehensive plan and the character of State Street," he said. "I drove by Eckert Door again today and this is going to be about a thousand-percent improvement over the looks of what's down there right now, and a continuing improvement to that part of State Street."

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