Doubling down at Ridgefield Supply
The term “lumbermen” — and its built-in assumption of maleness in the LBM industry — has never really bothered Margaret Price, the owner of Ridgefield Supply in Connecticut.
“I’m more focused on making sales and growing my company than changing stereotypes or names,” Price said.
Still, she has taken big steps toward building a more inclusive environment at Ridgefield Supply, as a new 34,000-sq.-ft. retail store, showroom, education center and corporate office takes shape on the 4.5-acre site in Ridgefield. The dramatic physical change at Ridgefield Supply will mark a major upgrade in the company’s retail offering from its previous 4,000-sq.-ft. space. The showroom and headquarters are expected to open this spring. Already, the expansion has put a roof over the entire LBM inventory.
These investments are designed to improve the business, but Price also wants to make the work environment safer and more comfortable for every employee. It’s common in the Northeast region especially, she said, for lumberyards to be a “little rough around the edges.”
“I’m trying to change the kind of work environment we have, and that’s very attractive to young people,” she said. For instance, women will have their own bathrooms in the new facility, and everyone will have access to a kitchenette.
In Price’s view, the male-dominated industry is generally accepting of women in the ranks, especially in sales, marketing and human resources roles. However, it’s been slower to accept women into the ranks of ownership or operations.
Her advice for women looking to successfully break into the business can easily cross over to men: “It’s a combination of having very thick skin and being very dedicated to the company you work for. And as I always like to say: There is no crying in lumber.”
She pointed to Rita Ferris, the head of the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association, as an influential role model for women in the business. Closer to home, Price said her father, Lou Price — the 1999 Connecticut Lumber Dealer of the Year — paved the way for her career in the business.
“My father was my rock,” she said. “He not only taught me the industry, and made me go get education within the industry. You always have to eat and breathe this stuff. You have to live it. You have to read the trade magazines and go online and do the research.”
As a woman in the business, she said she feels the pressure to double down on industry research.
“I have to know what I’m talking about when it comes to grading, species, millwork, insulation and the various types of glass used in windows and doors,” she said. “You have to know the product, and you have to know the manufacturers. And you also have to network with people.”
Another thing her father taught her was the art and science of networking. “The social aspect is a very important aspect of this industry,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to stay up late and have a beer with the guys. You can’t be afraid to go make friends. When you really and truly have the relationship, that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”