No matter how hard someone tries, it is difficult to explain just how big R.C. Willey Home Furnishings' new warehouse at 2301 S. 300 West really is.

But it is BBBBIIIIGGGG.Motorists on I-80 comment about the immensity of the building that has 6 acres under one roof, and those driving by on 300 West are dwarfed by the concrete structure scheduled to be opened by mid-February.

But until you get inside and look down the long rows of furniture racks, stare at the number of delivery doors and marvel at the amount of furniture that can be stored inside, you can't imagine how large this building is.

William H. Child, R.C. Willey chief executive officer and chairman of the board, said suppliers have told him there is nothing like this new warehouse in the United States. R.C. Willey officials are relying on their success in the Intermountain Area furniture market to cover the cost of the $13.5 million building.

Actually, the new building is much more than a warehouse that will service all of R.C. Willey's stores. It will have 80,000 square feet of retail display and selling space, the corporate offices, a furniture preparation area, a furniture clearance area, a large computer room, reception area, a boardroom and offices for salesman and personnel employees, said Sheldon Child, company president.

The contractor was Big D Construction Co. and the architect was Richard Priest, both from Ogden. Richard Turnbow, vice president of finance who convinced the Child brothers to build the warehouse, is overseeing the construction for R.C. Willey.

In a building this size, it is only natural to throw around a few figures to explain just how big it really is.

The roof is 38 feet from the floor, allowing for up to nine furniture racks high, depending on what is being stored. There are 34 delivery bays with 17 doors, 12 receiving bays and two railroad receiving bays. There are eight mechanized "pickers" that either put the furniture away or "pick it" for delivery.

About $2 million of the cost of the new building is tied up in the racks on which millions of dollars worth of furniture are being stacked. It took 130 semi-trailers to bring the racks to Salt Lake City from the Northwest and Atlanta, William said.

In case of a power outage, there are two large generators that will run the computer equipment, an essential part of R.C. Willey's operation so salespeople know exactly what inventory is on hand and don't sell something that isn't available.

The entire building has large steel beams that tie the structure together to meet seismic safety requirements.

In the north end of the building the retail selling area will have 80,000 square feet of space on two floors, about the same area as some of the company's other stores.

The entire project occupies 11 acres in South Salt Lake that was part of a redevelopment project. Childs said putting the package together was difficult because there were 14 different property owners involved. A salvage yard and several other small businesses were eliminated with construction of the new warehouse.

William said the site was selected because of its central location to the other stores, the railroad trackage and the belief the area needed a retail sales outlet.

Turnbow said the four warehouses at the Clearfield Freeport Center will close in February when the new distribution center opens. The company will retain the one warehouse it owns at the center.

Sheldon said R.C. Willey will keep its original store in Syracuse, the highest volume store for the company and among the top five volume furniture stores in the United States, quieting rumors it would be closed.

The new distribution center will service the 70,000 square-foot store at 6600 S. 900 East, opened in 1969; the Kearns/West Valley City store at 4000 W. 4739 South, opened in May 1986; the clearance center, 3909 W. 4700 South, opened in November 1988; and the 73,000 square foot Orem store opened Nov. 1, 1990 and has been well-received, the Child brothers said.

Opening of new stores and the huge distribution center is a far cry from R.C. Willey's beginning in 1932 when Willey, an employee of Utah Power & Light Co., began selling appliances door-to-door. His original store had 600 square feet for selling and 2,500 square feet as a warehouse.

Willey had a nine-party telephone line into the business, hardly conducive for access by customers and, because he had an electrical background, he ran the power to the business from his home next door.

William married Willey's daughter, Darlene, in 1952 and intended to be a schoolteacher after graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in education. When Willey died in 1954, his widow asked William to take over the business, and the first year the company's sales increased from $50,000 to $250,000.

How times change. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 1990, R.C. Willey did $100 million in sales. This fiscal year they are aiming at $150 million. R.C. Willey has 700 employees, including 100 new people they are hiring as the result of opening the new warehouse and store.

With the help of brother Sheldon, who joined the company in 1957, William guided R.C. Willey to add on to some stores as sales increased. The Child brothers believe the new warehouse and store will serve their customers for a long time.

Customer service and integrity are very important to the Child brothers, evidenced by William being named retailer of the year in 1989 by the National Home Furnishing's Association.

William's wife died in 1965, and he since has married Patricia Wright. R.C. Willey is owned completely by family or extended family members.