LUMBERYARDS

ProBuild reveals list of closures

BY HBSDEALER Staff

ProBuild Holdings, which confirmed last Friday that it was closing 20 of its units across the nation, announced 16 of the locations late Monday. The closures include lumber yards, component facilities, gypsum yards, and millwork facilities in both large and small markets, the Denver-based company said.

“Some of these locations are being consolidated with other locations nearby, while others are being mothballed until the construction industry conditions improve,” the prepared statement said. “Those facilities can be restarted quickly once we see a turnaround.”

The lists of 16 closures include:    

Newberg, Ore., lumberyard Auburn, Wash., framing business Sequim, Wash., lumberyard Sacramento, Calif., lumberyard Phoenix, Ariz., truss facility Poway, Calif., retail home center Cottonwood, Ariz., lumberyard Orem, Utah, lumberyard Jackson, Wis., lumberyard Gainesville, Va., millwork and windows facility Dry Ridge, Ky., truss facility Franklin, Tenn., components facility Augusta, Ga., framing/gypsum facility Jacksonville, Fla., lumber/gypsum/millwork North Charlotte, N.C., lumberyard Easton, Md., gypsum.

The company pointed to two line-of-business closures:

National City, Calif., truss plant only Waldorf, Md., truss plant only.                          

The remaining four closures are “pending,” according to ProBuild’s announcement. No timeline was given for the shutdown, but vendors told Home Channel News they were asked to remove their inventory by the end of the year. In Poway, Calif., a retail-oriented home center was already holding a 30% off clearance sale last weekend.

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MarJam means business

BY Ken Clark

Take the L train to Morgan Street station in Brooklyn, walk down the hill a few minutes. Turn right past the “Help Wanted” sign soliciting drivers and warehouse workers, and you’ll find the 2010 Pro Dealer of the Year—MarJam Supply Co.

After multiple visits to the Brooklyn yard and headquarters of MarJam Supply, Home Channel News is prepared to describe it as one of the busiest yards in the country.

“It’s like this 24/7,” said Mark Buller, founder and CEO, as forklifts whizzed by, trucks came and went, and hard hats scurried around the yard on the banks of the Newtown Creek. “Come here at 3 in the morning and you’ll see this, too.”

For instance: MarJam’s staff includes a full-timer dedicated exclusively to traffic-ticket mitigation.

The company’s high-volume Brooklyn yard is not for the faint of heart, and it’s rewarded with business at some high-profile job sites—including the Bloomberg Building and the World Trade Center.

“The company was founded in Brooklyn,” Buller said. “We wake up in the morning expecting traffic and expecting everything to be antagonistic. Yes, it is quite challenging, and we love it because we’re used to it. We excel at it, and we have the right attitude.”

Buller founded the company with his brother James in 1979. It has since grown to 22 locations—not counting door shops and storage areas—and a 16th-place rank on the Home Channel News Pro Dealer Industry Scoreboard.

Many of the urban-related headaches fall into the inbox and voice-mail system of Carmen Arguelles, the chief operating officer who described her career path as a “zig instead of a zag,” mixed with a desire to live and work in Brooklyn.

“Between the congestion, the rules, the unions, the traffic tickets, we have a barrier to entry,” Arguelles said. “If you don’t know it, if you’re not born here, it’s not advisable to walk into that water.”

MarJam Supply Co.

2010 Pro Dealer of the YearSlogan: “We deliver.”Headquarters: Brooklyn, N.Y.Locations: 22HCN Industry Scoreboard ranking: No. 162009 sales growth: 7%Founded: 1979Color commentary: “We hope to emerge from this business climate ahead of the class, but we’re humble about it.”—Mark Buller

 

While “Busiest Yard” is an unofficial title, MarJam Supply is officially the 2010 Pro Dealer of the Year—a title it accepted at the recent ProDealer Industry Summit in Orlando, Fla., cosponsored by the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association and Home Channel News.

No bigger company had better sales growth on the 2010 Pro Dealer Industry Scoreboard. No. 16 on the list, the company had a 7% sales gain in a difficult year.

The company long ago expanded out of Brooklyn and carries the slogan: “We Deliver from Maine to Virginia.” That slogan will need an update, as the company recently acquired four locations in Florida, bringing its footprint to 22 sites.

While Florida presents a new, fresh environment with plenty of space, the team knows it presents challenges, just the same.

“Operation-ally, Florida is terrific,” Buller said. “It’s almost like starting with a blank piece of paper. The door openings are right, the setbacks are correct, the streets are wide—except the customer base is shrinking a little too fast for my appetite.”

The company describes itself as in “learning mode” in Florida. One major factor in their favor is the quality of the people they have in place to develop the market.

The company is no stranger to awards. In 1995, Buller was recognized as Metropolitan New York winner of an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. More recently, the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association honored Arguelles as a “Lumber Person of the Year.”

And in Buller’s vision of the future, and future investments, the company is looking to continue the strong performance over the long term.

“We’re not like a private-equity company that walks in and knocks 25% out of costs and pops a profit next quarter,” he said. “Of course, we want to pop a profit, and we have pretty good profits in a bad economy. But we’re thinking long term.”

And as busy as the yard is on the outside, the sales office—“This is our stock exchange,” Arguelles said—is equally busy.

“We are profoundly inside-sales bent,” said Buller, motioning toward the phone bank. “We have excellent outside salespeople—I think they’re the best in the industry—but we are tilted very heavily toward the inside. They handle the relationship; they do the expediting.”

“The biggest key to our success is neither of us golf,” Arguelles said. “So we have to sit here and work all day.”

In a tough environment, that’s a good problem to have.

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Building (again) in Cincinnati

BY Ken Clark

The owners of Forge Lumber were on the sidelines during the height of the building boom, having sold their Cincinnati operation to Builders FirstSource in 2000. But after their non-compete agreements expired, the management group jumped back in.

And they wasted little time establishing their two-location operation—one yard on each side of the Ohio River in Kentucky and Ohio—as a force in their market.

In 2009, Forge Lumber rode market share gains to a 27% sales increase and a No. 282 ranking on the Pro Dealer Industry Scoreboard. For its success and commitment to service and growth, the company earned the 2010 Independent Pro Dealer of the Year award. That sales success, in a year when the vast majority of companies on the Scoreboard showed declines, was the result of a focus on the customer and a focus on quality.

“We want to have the most professional lumber operation in the country,” said Eric Steinman, executive VP. It’s an ambitious goal, and one that begins with putting the right people in the right positions.

“When we bought two smaller lumber organizations to form Forge Lumber, those purchases were focused on people,” he said. “Many of them we knew and respected and felt like they would help form a great team.”

Forge’s strong 2009 was aided by the withdrawal of some major players, opening the door for local knowledge to win business. One key to the team is David Luecke (pronounced “lucky”), VP sales and marketing. Luecke brings 35 years of experience in the LBM business, including a role as president and CEO of Riemeier Lumber, which was once the dominant commercial project supplier in Cincinnati.

“We have a significant edge in our markets because of who we have on our team and our depth of experience in the industry,” Luecke said.

Forge Lumber Co.

2010 Independent Pro Dealer of the YearSlogan: “We nail it. Every time.”Headquarters: CincinnatiLocations: 2HCN Pro Dealer Scoreboard Ranking: No. 2822009 sales growth: 27.8%President: John SteinmanColor commentary: “We believe our customers will be looking for us to help them more, and in many ways.”—Eric Steinman

 

Another key member of the management team is John Steinman IV, son of Forge Lumber president John Steinman. Steinman the younger brings a background in information technology and purchasing, which management believes will prove critical to future success, and has already achieved results through the implementation of a new software system.

“We know we have work to do, and we always have work to do; but right now, we’ve completed some difficult upgrades, and we’re about to put the foot on the gas pedal,” Eric Steinman said.

Building on its $23 million performance in 2009 will require a commitment to customers, he added.

The name of “Forge” came about as the result of “non-scientific pondering,” Eric said. But it seems to fit, as the family business pounds away and forges ahead on customer service.

“We’re very honored to receive this award,” Eric said. “It reflects the strong work ethic of all of our team members. And we’re also very optimistic that we can continue to grow with our customers.”

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