Fonti family returns to madison and sets up in former american tv beltline store madison wisconsin business news gas and water llc


Coupled with the Dec. 1 purchase of the Ashley Furniture HomeStore at 2302 E. Springs Drive near East Towne Mall, Fonti and his Stevens Point-based Boston Inc. have stormed back into the Madison market 30 years after his father closed his Appliance Mart store.

“This is the iconic building in the state of Wisconsin when it comes to appliances and furniture,” Fonti said of the Beltline location near Todd Drive. “This building in Madison had nothing to do with American not succeeding. It always did well. What we’re bringing to it is a lot more variety of furniture and the experience that consumers are looking for.”

Some of those additions include a larger appliance section, a demonstration kitchen to show off the latest products including LG appliances and induction cooktops that use magnetic energy. The electronics department will be located in the back of the store but will be visible from the front. The entire interior and exterior facade is also getting a makeover before the store opens in March.

Gambino died in 1985. Fonti, who had opened a store in Stevens Point the previous year, closed the Madison store in July 1985. A week later, Mattioli announced that his company had bought the property and it would reopen in September as an American store. Mattioli’s company would go on to become one of the most well-known names in electronics in the Midwest. When Mattioli left the company in 2009, there were 15 stores in Wisconsin and four other states, 2,000 employees and $500 million in annual revenues. When it went out of business after entering bankruptcy this year, 11 stores in three states and 1,000 employees were left.

The move by Vince Fonti in 1985 helped set the stage for growth. The company, now run by his sons, Bill, Joe and Vince Jr., has Furniture & ApplianceMarts in Stevens Point, Wausau, Rhinelander and Plover; Ashley Furniture HomeStores in Green Bay, Appleton, Stevens Point, Marshfield and Madison and outlet stores in De Pere and Oshkosh.

“They were the toughest competitors I ever had,” said Mattioli, who remains in retailing but is now selling — not giving away — bicycles. “Thank God, there’s still rugged, tough, independent businessmen. I have watched their business grow. They’ve got the knack. They’ve got the pulse of the public, and they will make their stores fun to go into.”

When Bill Fonti worked for his dad in Madison, no price tags were seen on most of the items in the store. Instead, it was all barter. Where the American store was primarily an open concept, the redesigned space will include more walls to better stage furniture and appliances. Most of Fonti’s stores have 50,000 to 60,000 square feet of showroom space, but the Beltline store will have 100,000 square feet of retail space.

In addition, Fonti has already hired four former American managers and is looking for more former employees to help fill the store’s 70 open positions. The company returns 40 percent of its profits back to its employees, said Fonti, whose company had more than $50 million in revenues in 2013.