Beckerle Lumber emerges from COVID-19 battle

Located in Rockland County, N.Y., just 22 miles north of New York City and the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 crisis, Beckerle Lumber suffered the temporary loss of as much as 30% of its workforce during the pandemic.

According to Beckerle Lumber President and co-owner Larry Beckerle III, the company had 11 employees test positive for COVID-19, with nearly as many remaining away from work due to exposure to the virus. At one point about 30 of Beckerle Lumber’s 90 employees were sidelined.

“We were down one-third of our workforce from the end of March to the middle of April,” Beckerle told HBSDealer. That includes Beckerle himself who works out of the company’s Spring Valley, N.Y. location, which also serves as the pro dealer’s headquarters.

The Spring Valley location was eventually cut down to just 4 employees, including an associate in the paint department. After one of those employees called out sick, Beckerle Lumber made the decision to close the doors to the store on April 3. Altogether, the store was closed for two weeks before reopening on April 20.

The company’s three other locations in Congers, Haverstraw and Orangeburg remained opened with near-skeleton staffs.

“We were trying to work the stores with inexperienced staff in some cases,” Beckerle says.”We were very shorthanded at all locations.”

The entire situation hit as Beckerle Lumber celebrated its 80th anniversary. 

Founded in 1940, the company has survived wars, multiples fires, floods and can now add a pandemic notch to its belt. The company has also been run by three Laurence Beckerle’s, including grandfather, father and son, with Larry Beckerle running the business today along with his brothers Steve and Michael.

Laurence Beckerle, Jr., who goes by “Pete” remains active in the business but has remained in Florida during the crisis. But not without warning his sons to be prepared before the pandemic hit.

“Every year we have an annual meeting to talk about the state of the company and discuss the nitty gritty,” Beckerle says. “And my father has told us ‘You never know what’s going to happen’.”

“But this was beyond anything we imagined,” Beckerle says. “You have to be prepared for anything.”

The company installed plexiglass guards, has put a mask-wearing policy into place and maintains social distancing.

Overall, the dealer serves a mix of roughly 70% professionals and 30% DIY or “buy-it-yourself” customers. Within its pro base, nearly 90% is remodeling with the 10% home building. 

While business was down about 40% in March year-over-year, and then declined roughly 20% in April, business is back with a boom. “We are surprisingly busy. It’s growing tremendously,” Beckerle says.

Decking is particularly going strong. The dealer is unable to keep pressure treated lumber in stock for long. In fact, Beckerle Lumber has back orders for pressure treated. On the day Beckerle spoke with HBSDealer, the company president said he expected a fresh delivery to be gone by the next day. 

But as the dealer emerges from the crisis, Beckerle gives credit to his “strong, dedicated staff who feel very loyal to their customers.”

“As soon as they could come back to work, they came back,” he says.