Woodson Lumber, small-market powerhouse

As Handy Hardware celebrates its 50th anniversary, one of its Texas hardware and lumberyard dealers is preparing for its 100th.

Seven-location Woodson Lumber, based in Brenham, Texas, operates in the small towns in the economically diverse Dallas, Houston, San Antonio Triangle. The chain was founded by HP Woodson in 1913, and today is run by his granddaughter Ann Chapman. 

A slow evolution over three generations of ownership has brought the company to its current mix — two locations focused on contractor business and five others focused on what president and COO Craig Blum describes as “very small town, rural, repair-and-remodel, farm-and-ranch, agri-related” customers.

“We carry a little bit of everything, and we’re willing to try a little of anything,” Blum said. The retail evolution continues across the company. Most recently, Blum pointed to an expansion of Woodson’s farm and ranch assortment, adding Nutrena and Purina to its staples of wire and hardware. It has expanded its gift, housewares, and lawn and garden departments. “Things to help decorate your home a little bit, inside and out,” said Blum, who has been with Woodson since “the day I walked out of high school” in 1975.

Since about that time, Woodson has been with Handy Hardware as its hardware supplier. (Blum served on the Handy board from 2000 to 2008.) 

“The other thing we’ve done, on the business side, is we have focused our buying in two ways, one with Handy Hardware and the other on the commodity side through LMC,” he said. “We have relied on those two to do their job, so we can focus on the customers and our markets. And there hasn’t been a whole lot that they haven’t been able to provide.”

As Woodson has grown, Handy’s in-house team and RDMs have helped guide the company’s new store design and planograms in Lexington (pop. 1,500); Buffalo (pop. 1,800) and Groesbeck (pop. 3,500.)

Blum said there’s always been somebody to talk to at Handy. “From our regional district manager, the buyers, management and [president] Tina Kirbie, we’ve always known people we could turn to, and never felt that we wouldn’t get a call back and get a problem addressed,” he said.

“We’re close enough that if we needed to, we could get in a car and go talk to them, but we haven’t had to do that,” Blum said.

Like most dealers who aren’t tied to the success of tract builders, Woodson feels somewhat insulated from the tough economy. “When there is little building, you have to shift to the repair and remodel guy,” he said. “And our walk-in business has been very good, even in this downturn in home building.”

The company slogan: “Where You Matter.” Emphasis is on the “You,” said Blum. And that service focus is typical of the Handy membership, he noted.

“They want to have an independent hardware distributor, and they want to maintain their independence,” he said.

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