Before and after: Huntington Lumber & Supply Co.

Before: If David and John Huntington, owners of Huntington Lumber & Supply Co., had known that their much-needed expansion would eventually bring them daily personal thanks from their customers, they might have gotten around to it much sooner. Despite the fact that the third-generation lumberyard in Hazlehurst, Miss., was overflowing past its 2,000-sq.-ft. parameters, the two brothers were hesitant to remodel, even dodging house calls from Do it Best territory manager Roy Jones, who they thank now for pushing them to do it.

Conceived in the late 1920s, their grandfather’s store originally consisted of lumberyards and sawmills. It moved to its current location in 1962 and became part of Do it Best in 2001. Despite all the transformation, the store itself was virtually unchanged from when their father built it.

“We had a 3,000-sq.-ft. showroom, and probably some of the original dust from ’71 was in it,” John said. “Dad was really big into building materials. He didn’t really care about selling nuts and bolts. He thought that was a little ridiculous. And so we kind of realized that as the other hardware stores in town and the other lumber places closed around us, we really needed to do something to fill the void, possibly before someone else came in and did it.”

Solution: David and John made the decision to expand in the face of the recession, which had then just begun. After some planning and research, the original store and existing sheds were torn down to make way for the construction of a new building. Together with Sunbelt Racks, one of the vendors they worked with on the project, they also built an L-shed, T-shed and a drive-through lumberyard.

In consultation with Do it Best and its RetailPLUS! Team, the Huntingtons built a new 15,000-sq.-ft. store, using most of the real estate they had available to them.

After: It’s hard to deny the advantage of this particular expansion. Sales increased from the full year prior to opening in April 2011, and the following full year saw a sales increase of 82%, plus margins that were up six points.

The new store introduced an entirely new market to Huntington Lumber & Supply Co., with lots of female customers and a dramatic spike in SKUs — 24,000 new products, to be precise.

“We have shopping carts,” David said. “I never owned a shopping cart in my life.” Beyond the hard numbers, the brothers cite a happier staff, less loss, more organization and plenty of gratitude from their expanded customer base.

“I had people coming up to me almost daily for the first couple of months,” John said. “Two years in, I still have people who come in and thank us for doing that. That’s just amazing to me that someone would thank me for having this store. I’m like, ‘No, thank you for coming in.’ ”

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