Keith Brown Building Materials closes

Keith Brown Building Materials, an 80-year-old chain of lumberyards in California and Oregon, shut its doors for good on Dec. 2. A telephone recording at the company’s Salem, Ore., headquarters announced the closure, adding that “an orderly liquidation of all assets is in progress.” Vendors inquiring about payment were advised that “there are no funds available to send to vendors at this time.”

The company operated 10 units in California and Oregon, down from 14 at the beginning of the year. Keith Brown ranked 132nd on the Home Channel News Pro Dealer Top 350 Scoreboard this year, with $63 million in sales for 2007.

Company CEO and president Brad Pence, whose grandfather-in-law started the company in 1928, could not be reached for comment. But Pence told The Oregonian that an interested investor was unable to line up funding because of credit market conditions. Pence told the newspaper he was forced to close by a combination of factors: the collapse of housing starts, especially in California’s Central Valley; rising fuel costs; and sinking lumber prices. The LBM chain was also squeezed by bankers and suppliers who wouldn’t help keep the company afloat, Pence added.

At one point, Keith Brown was a 25-location pro dealer that stretched through the Pacific Northwest. The four-unit company expanded rapidly in the year 2000, purchasing 21 units from the former Copeland Lumber when that company sold off its lumberyards. 

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