Stihl Hardware All Stars: New Jersey
Lambertville, N.J. — The hardware and building supply industry is not a beauty contest. But if it were, Niece Lumber — on the banks of the Delaware River in historic Lambertville — would be a leading contender in the building materials competition.
“There’s not a better looking yard in the country,” said Marc Currie, who represents the fourth generation of family ownership, and the fifth generation of yard workers. “And not a cleaner one, either.”
Bold statements? Yes. Biased? Perhaps. But they’re also hard to disprove.
The yard is located in the “Antiques Capital of the Garden State,” amid a wealth of stately Victorian homes and federal townhouses. Visitors to Niece Lumber are greeted by gables and a porch that match the architectural integrity of the town. The appearance benefits from a culture of cleanliness that was passed down from Currie’s grandfather, Harry Blair, who instilled an obsession with cleanliness throughout the ranks.
The obsession remains (as do two current employees who worked for Blair). And behind the postcard-perfect setting is a lumberyard dedicated to high standards.
“We’re very fortunate to serve in this area,” Currie said. “We go to Bucks County and Hunterdon County and Princeton, [New Jersey], and there’s a ton of quality builders in these communities. And that matches what we’re trying to sell, high end products and services.”
A focus on the custom home builders and remodelers also means the yard is well versed in historic mouldings and custom windows.
The yard, which describes its business as a 70-30 split between pro and DIY, underwent a store redesign through the Do it Best co-op’s program about a year and a half ago. That move reflects the company’s constant-improvement mentality. Currently, the store is building a 1,000-sq.-ft. outdoor deck display. It also unveiled a new partnership with a high-end local cabinet manufacturer from Bucks County.
Niece Lumber builds community ties through its service, as well as contractor showcase nights and other events. Most recently, a ladies night attracted a crowd of 50 or 60, and with plans to repeat.
Another benefit along the Delaware River in Lambertville is that the area is naturally a fortress built by nature against big retailers. The Delaware River, the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the absence of a major highway keep national competition at bay — though you can find big boxes in Flemington some 12 miles away.
“We’re fairly isolated from the big boxes, which is unusual in New Jersey,” Currie said.
And the best thing about Niece Lumber: It runs itself. “I don’t have to worry about anything, and that’s a tribute to the people we have here. When I’m off on a Saturday, I know everything will get done,” Currie said.
Swing to profit for BMC
Pointing to rising costs of lumber and sheet goods along with strong fundamentals for single-family housing, Atlanta-based BMC Stock Holdings reported an increase of 4.2% in first quarter sales. The company also saw net income swing to a profit of $3.7 million.
Net sales for the company were $757.7 million, and included accelerating growth in the month of March.
The company completed two acquisitions (including one in April), enhancing the BMC footprint and value-added capabilities in the Washington, D.C., and Dallas/Fort Worth markets. It acquired Code Plus Components in the Washington, D.C., area; and Texas Plywood & Lumber Co. in Dallas/Fort Worth.
“The solid fundamentals supporting an improving housing market, combined with our internal growth initiatives aimed at growing our higher-margin categories, should enable us to deliver notable profit growth for 2017," said CEO Peter Alexander, in a prepared statement.
Meanwhile, rain in some western markets delayed construction and curtailed growth at the beginning of the year. March sales picked up the pace with 9% sales gains, a rate that continued in April, Alexander said.
Once again, the company touted the growth of Ready-Frame, BMC's proprietary whole-home framing solution. Sales of Ready-Frame in the first quarter grew 68% to $34.1 million.
"With moderating weather out west, we expect increased top line growth in the upcoming quarters and expect at least a 50% increase in Ready-Frame sales for full year 2017 as compared to 2016," Alexander said. "For the full year, we expect to achieve significant improvements in profitability as we continue to implement our growth strategies and realize improved operating expense leverage.”
The company also reaffirmed expectation of total annual run rate cost savings from the BMC-Stock merger of $46 million to $52 million by the end of 2017.
SRS Distribution acquires Kohl Building Products
McKinney, Texas-based SRS Distribution acquired Kohl Building Products, a family owned regional distributor with locations in Central Pennsylvania and Maryland. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Founded in 1947, Kohl Building Products operates facilities in Reading, Selinsgrove, Mechanicsburg, Stroudsburg, Johnstown, Bloomsburg, and York, Pennsylvania. It also has a yard in Frederick, Maryland.
Kohl co-owners – Tom and Deb Kearse – along with the entire sales staff and operations staff, will continue with the company. Kohl will also keep its name.
Tom Kearse, president of Kohl Building Products, said: “We look forward to expanding on our 70-year track record of success for many years to come."
SRS is a roofing distribution holding company with 181 locations in 41 states. In addition to Kohl Building Products, SRS owns the following: Suncoast Roofers Supply, Southern Shingles, Midwest Roofing Supply, River City Wholesale, Superior Distribution, Shake & Shingle Supply, Roofline Supply & Delivery, Stoneway Roofing Supply, Heritage Wholesalers, Myles F. Kelly, Commercial Distribution Specialists, B&L Wholesale Supply, Advanced Distribution Specialists, B&L Wholesale Supply, Advanced Building Products, Atlantic Roofing Distributors, Monroe Aluminum Products, National Building and Roofing Supplies and Metro Roofing Supplies.
SRS is a portfolio company of Berkshire Partners LLC.