Page 1

APRIL 2021

Vol. 47 No. 4



Sunny Bowman and the Independent ProDealer of the Year: Dakota County Lumber Co.

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DO IT BEST REPORT 34 Highlights from a 36 Nation’s Best builds on momentum 38 Indie profile: Brownsboro

Hardware & Paint

PRODUCT CATEGORIES 40 Exterior building products 42 All around the grill MARKET INSIGHTS 46 Shifts in home design lead to

opportunities for building products

50 An eCommerce home run:

1,320% increase in web sales.

58 Top Women: Core values from


A Few Cool Hardware Stores.

Cover Story: The ProDealer of the Year Issue 20 The McCray Way

Success through adversity: McCray Lumber & Millwork is the 2021 ProDealer of the Year

28 Minnesota, Nice!

Independent ProDealer of the Year: Dakota County Lumber Co.






12 True Value seeks reversal

14 News Map 16 Product Knowledge 16 Stat of the Month 60 People in the News 62 Quikrete Industry Dashboard

Journalism basics and behind the scenes coverage

from Stanley

12 R.P. Lumber’s investment

in rural America

14 Cordless power in

the big boxes

16 Stats from the Joint Center

for Housing Studies

Hardware + Building Supply Dealer (ISSN 2376-5852) is published monthly, except for July/August and November/December, which are double issues, by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rate in the United States: $110 one year; $200 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $130 one year; $235 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $150 one year; $285 two year; $16 single issue copy; in all other countries (air mail only). Digital Subscription: $75 one year; $140 two year. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, IL., and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to HBSD, Circulation Fulfillment Director, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Copyright © 2021 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved.





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See more and share more when you follow us on Facebook.

Shop talk with The Home Depot Rental Watch the replay of our webinar on the state of the rental business with the people who make it happen for The Home Depot. Visit the webinar library at hbsdealer.com/webinars

Top Women are getting connected Connect with the new “Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply” Linkedin page for news, knowledge and networking — all leading up to a live event in November. Men are invited, too!

The polls remain open. Your voice counts. HBSDealer publishes weekly poll questions on pressing industry matters, and other topics. For instance:








: “What social media platform do you use for business most often?”

17% None

Follow us @HBSDealer

Poll questions and results appear every week at HBSDealer.com. Source: HBSDealer Survey






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The Cutting Room Floor Behind the scenes of our ProDealer of the Year coverage Two quick points about journalism, as practiced by “From the Editor.” First: If you are ever photographed next to a truck, one foot on the cabin step and one hand on the grab handle, there is a very high likelihood that you will eventually grace the cover of HBSDealer magazine. Case in point: our ProDealer of the Year issue in 2021, which honors Dakota County Lumber Co. of Minnesota; and McCray Lumber, based in Overland Park, Kan.

Hardware + Building Supply Dealer An EnsembleIQ Publication 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631 hbsdealer.com HBSDealer On The Web • HBSDealer Info Services SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT (HBSDealer, Drug Store News, Chain Store Age) John Kenlon, jkenlon@ensembleiq.com, 212-756-5238

Ken Clark Editor in Chief Bowman and her father, Steve Finden, about the time when the leadership of DCL went from father to daughter. “I kind of kicked him out eight years ago,” she said. “I told him, ‘There are whole sections of the business that I’m not learning because they’re still reporting to you directly.’ And he said, ‘All right, I’ll be at the house. Come over and talk any time.’ “And we did.”

The interview process was like this: “Jim Mahoney [the manager] always read the Wall Street Journal, and he’s got it up in front of him. I go sit down by his desk. and he says, “You’re Steve?” I go, “Yep.” He says, “You know Bob?” “Yeah. Bob and I were roommates.” “You got a car?” “Yeah, I got a car.” “Okay. You’re hired.”

LBM EDITOR Andy Carlo acarlo@ensembleiq.com, 845-891-5108 CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Ken Ryan ryankgr@aol.com, 516-567-3034 Editorial Inquiries: Direct questions to Editor in Chief Ken Clark. ADVERTISING SALES

Midwest & Southeastern States SENIOR REGIONAL MANAGER Amy Platter Grant agrant@ensembleiq.com, 773-294-8598 Northeast and Great Lakes States REGIONAL MANAGER Greg Cole gcole@ensembleiq.com, 317-775-2206 AUDIENCE

LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Marie Briganti 914-309-3378 SUBSCRIBER SERVICES/CUSTOMER CARE TOLL-FREE: 1-877-687-7321 FAX: 1-888-520-3608 contact@hbsdealer.com

Second: For every good, company profile, there’s always elite-level “content” that remains on the cutting room floor. Not every quote, fact, story or photograph makes it into print. And in the current issue, we left out some really good stuff. For instance. While researching our 2021 ProDealer of the Year article, our team heard McCray Lumber COO Steve Haynes explain how we has hired more than three decades ago: “I had been working for HB Fuller Company out of Chicago selling construction support adhesives, and I was just tired of getting in the car and driving all the way to Dodge City. One of my old college roommates, said, ‘Hey, they got an opening down in Lincoln.’ So I called over there.”

EDITOR IN CHIEF Ken Clark kclark@ensembleiq.com, 212-756-5139


SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, OPERATIONS Derek Estey destey@ensembleiq.com, 877-687-7321 DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION Michael Kimpton mkimpton@ensembleiq.com, 647-557-5075 CREATIVE DIRECTOR Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com ART DIRECTOR Bill Antkowiak bantkowiak@ensembleiq.com

Dean Bostrom’s front-row seat at Dakota County Lumber Company in Minnesota.

There were photos we left out. Good ones, too. Like this one (above) of Dean “Deano” Bostrom, described on DCL’s web site as “Chief of Getting Your Order Delivered Perfectly.” And finally, our cutting room floor contains some inspirational facts. For instance: Did you know that McCray Lumber’s Hatch McCray is chairman of Be Head Strong, an organization that supports brain tumor patients and caregivers in the Kansas City metro area. It’s true. Check out the web site at beheadstrong.org. Congratulations to our ProDealers of the Year. Coverage begins (in earnest) on page 20. HBSD



connect with us

We left out coverage of a fatherdaughter conversation between Sunny





True Value seeks reversal from Stanley “Inappropriate and unlawful” — that’s how True Value CEO Chris Kempa describes a decision by Stanley Black & Decker to cease shipments to True Value. In a letter penned by Kempa and posted by a retailer to the Google Hardlines Digest message board, the True Value CEO described how Stanley Black & Decker surprised the distributor with notice that Stanley intended to cease supplying their products effective Aug. 23, 2021. True Value emphasized that Stanley product will remain available through True Value through the end of the year and probably longer, regardless of the outcome of ongoing discussions.

“We are actively talking with Stanley and doing everything in our power on behalf of our independent hardware retailers to reverse the decision,” said

Kempa, in an e-mail statement. Stanley Black & Decker did not immediately respond to a request for information regarding its relationship with True Value. Kempa’s letter reads in part: “True Value views this decision as both inappropriate and unlawful and we are preparing to file a legal claim against Stanley and all other parties involved for damages that this type of action, if implemented, would cause to True Value and your independent businesses.” (Read the full letter at HBSDealer.com.) Kempa says not only has True Value honored all of its commitments to Stanley, but it also enjoyed record sales with the brand in 2020.

R.P. Lumber invests in rural America R.P. Acquisition Corporation, a subsidiary of R.P. Lumber Co., Inc., is acquiring the assets of Stock + Field. The move includes 25 farm and ranch retail locations in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. Terms of the pending deal were not disclosed. Stock + Field was founded in Watseka, Ill. as Big R Stores but the 57-year-old retailer declared bankruptcy in January and announced that it was liquidating its assets. R.P. Acquisition Corporation said the stores will begin operations under new management in April. The stores will retain the Stock + Field banner, continue to focus on farm and ranch sales, and provide the same products and services. In a press release, R.P. Acquisition Corporation said it recognizes that the loss of the stores would leave a “difficult hole to fill in each of their


Stock + Field operates 25 stores in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.

local communities.” “With this in mind, they will endeavor to keep the customers, the employees, and their families united as a community, rooted in the heartland,” said Robert Plummer, chairman of R.P. Acquisition Corporation and founder of R.P.


Lumber. “Our focus right now is on keeping Stock + Field stores open and serving the many communities they have served for years and, in some instances, decades.” “These stores have a decadeslong tradition as part of the fabric of the community,” said Jason Plummer, president of R.P. Acquisition Corporation. “We love the farm and ranch space but, perhaps even more importantly, we saw this as an opportunity to invest in rural America, contribute to the growth of these great communities, and help keep many good, hard-working people employed.” Based in Edwardsville, Ill., R.P. Lumber operates 72 full-service hardware and building material stores throughout Illinois, Missouri, Wyoming, and Iowa. — Andy Carlo

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Big pushes into cordless power Lowe’s is broadening its array of power tool offerings with the exclusive launch of the FLEX line of cordless power tools. Meanwhile, The Home Depot is broadening its assortment of cordless outdoor power equipment with the launch of a new suite of products. The moves are part of ongoing story of advancing technology and increasing awareness in the batterypowered arena. At Lowe’s, the first assortment of Chervon’s FLEX tools – some 60 products – are expected to hit the shelves of all U.S. Lowe’s stores in the second quarter. A multi-year rollout of more than 100 FLEX platformcompatible tools will follow. An new FLEX 24V platform features industry-leading lithium-ion and brushless motor technologies with 20% more power than competitors and up to 50% faster charging, according to Lowe’s. Additionally, FLEX will

include a limited lifetime warranty on any tool, battery or charger purchase with registration in 2021. According to Bill Boltz, Lowe’s EVP of Merchandising, the FLEX launch is the home improvement giant’s latest move in building its pro strategy. In past several years, Lowe’s has continued to ramp up its pro business through increased products, added digital merchandising and reward programs aimed at contractors, including Lowes4Pros. “We continue to look for opportunities with the right brands,” Boltz told HBSDealer. “Being able to offer this brand is a great opportunity for Lowe’s.” The Home Depot’s roll out of a new OPE lineup is charging ahead on the back of improved batteries. Included in the new lineup are products from Ryobi, DeWalt, Makita and Milwaukee. “Modern advances in battery technology are giving these industryleading brands the ability to deliver

Lowe’s brings out the FLEX (top). Home Depot points to “modern advances in battery technology” for its OPE lineup.

our customers outstanding power and even greater value than ever in cordless outdoor power equipment,” said Jeff Kinnaird, executive vice president of merchandising at The Home Depot. The retailer said the cordless products are effortless to start, significantly quieter, yet emit no carbon emissions, At the same time, the batteries for these brands’ outdoor tools, like trimmers and blowers, are interchangeable with their other power tools such as drills, impact drivers and more.

News Map: Centuries in the making A special edition of the News Map highlights retailers and dealers who have successfully served customers for more than 100 years. For more retail news from around the country, visit HBSDealer.com. illinois

Buffalo Grove

Hines Supply Founded in 1892, the Chicagoland company has grown to 11 locations. It was acquired by US LBM Holdings in 2010, when Hines Supply was known as Edward Hines Lumber Co.

north carolina

High Point

Beeson Hardware Co. In 1883, Newell Beeson founded the business in downtown High Point. Today, Beeson operates four divisions: Hardware & Lumber, Industrial Products, Contract Hardware and Hardware & Plumbing.


Tucker california


Foster Lumber Established in 1920 and Solano County’s oldest lumberyard, FLY has been part of the Central Valley Family of Companies since 2018.



Cofer Brothers It started with brothers Kelley and Reid Cofer in 1919, and the business has been supplying Greater Atlanta with lumber and building materials ever since. The new slogan: “Centennial Strong.” A friendly 2x4 serves as mascot.


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JCHS sees expansion (again) and shifts As much of the U.S. economy took a hit during the pandemic conditions of 2020, the nation’s home improvement moved ahead. According to a new report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), home improvement spending increased 3% to $420 billion last year. In contrast, the economy diminished by 3.5% during the same span. Despite remodeling projects performed by pros coming to a halt, primarily due to lockdown conditions and fears over COVID-19, DIY renovations took off. The JCHS said the rise in DIY spending was fueled by the sudden increase in working from home along with a surge in demand for larger homes and yards in lowercost, less dense areas. The strength of the home remodeling market made 2020 the 10th consecutive year of expansion for the industry, but the pandemic disrupted several long-term trends. “From 2010 to 2019, homeowners largely relied on professional contractors, and remodeling activity was heavily concentrated in coastal metros,” said Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the JCHS. “But in 2020, amid concerns about having contractors in the home,

DIY projects gained new popularity, and remodeling activity shifted to lower-cost metros where larger shares of younger households—traditionally the most active do-it-yourselfers—could afford to own homes.” In late March of last year, 60% of respondents to a homeowner survey cited by the JCHS had begun at least one DIY maintenance or improvement project in the previous two to three weeks. But by early May, the share had jumped to nearly 80%. JCHS compiled its findings in “Improving America’s Housing 2021” report.

“...DIY projects gained new popularity, and remodeling activity shifted to lower-cost metros where larger shares of younger households— traditionally the most active do-it-yourselfers—could afford to own homes.” —Kermit Bker, JCHS


Rising prices The latest available findings from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) show February construction input prices were up 7.6% in February, compared to February 2020. Leading the charge was softwood lumber, up 79.7% on a year over year basis. “As vaccinations become more




pervasive around the world, additional stimulus is injected into various economies, and the global economy reopens in earnest, the pace of price increases could further accelerate,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. ABC’s findings are based on its analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index.


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McCRAY WAY Success through adversity: McCray Lumber and Millwork is the 2021 ProDealer of the Year. By Ken Clark With the announcement that McCray Lumber and Millwork received the 2021 ProDealer of the Award, the McCray team accomplished something unprecedented in the lumber industry. In the space of 16 years, the Overland Park, Kan.-based pro dealer become the first to earn recognition as both the “Independent ProDealer of the Year” (2005) and the “ProDealer of the Year” (2021). Between those honors, the company checked all the boxes for what the ProDealer of the Year stands for: innovation, growth and performance in accordance with the values of the lumber and building material industry. The unprecedented achievement occurred during an unprecedented year of challenges, shortages, mandates and uncertainties. HBSDealer spent time in Edwardsville, Kan., and spoke with company executives about the McCray way, how the company has adapted and grown since 2005, and what it believes are the keys to its future success. The conversation featured: • Hatch McCray, co-owner; • Steve Haynes, chief operating officer; • Gene Bosley, vice president



With seven locations, including a distribution center, a multi-family division and a millwork showroom and production facility, here’s how the team described its strength: Steve Haynes: This award is about our people. Our success is simply because our employees are the best. Through Covid-19, shortages or heavy workloads, their great attitude makes for a winning formula as they strive as a unit for customer satisfaction. We are thankful to our customers, suppliers and our families for helping us succeed. Hatch McCray: It’s always about the people, the employees and the customers—that’s what we believe makes us unique and special. That’s probably an old answer, but that’s how I feel. Gene Bosley: We have a lot of people with tenure. There’s Dan Hoschouer, out at our counter right now, and he is going on year 38. He’s a few years ahead of Steve [Haynes], and there’s a whole group of long-time employees. During 2020, McCray Lumber sales increased double digits to $134.5 million. That growth was achieved during challenging conditions for employees and customers. Here’s how the team handled the pandemic. McCray: At first, everything was a big unknown. But I have to say that when I think about our employees, everyone was scrappy and


resourceful. They figured it out all the ways around the minefield and how to take care of our customers and keep our business going. And even Steve [Haynes] brought out what we called his “Mr. Freeze wand” — our COO was walking around on Saturday spraying and disinfecting the place. So, we were all in. We had to send the message to everyone: “Hey, stay focused, follow the guidelines, and we’re creating a safer work environment for you.” Bosley: Education during that period of time was really important. We were having conference calls every day, sometimes twice a day. We’re in two states and 15 municipalities and there was a lot of discrepancy about certain businesses closing, who’s closing when, what are the rules? Can we do it? And the employees live in all the different communities. So, they were coming in with


(From left) Gene Bosley, Hatch McCray and Steve Haynes at McCray Lumber’s Edwardsville, Kan. location. (Far left): A banner flies in Fairfax in recognition of the 2005 Independent ProDealer of the Year award. The story made the cover of Home Channel News, the forerunner of HBSDealer.

questions and saying: “Hey, well, here’s what I heard.” There was a lot of moving parts. And everything was moving so fast. Steve: I think one of the things that I was very proud of in our company—and all of our employees—is that we didn’t react and make cuts. It really was a good feeling to have everybody rally around the business. The other major historical event since 2005 was the housing market depression that hit around 2006. Here again, the company takes pride in its handling of the crisis. Haynes: When we went hit the downturn, we learned how to go lean. And as a result, we have become very good multitaskers. And we’ve learned to live and thrive in that environment,



COVER FEATURE because we do Zoom calls as opposed to me picking up the phone and calling eight guys and explaining to them why OSB set a record high. McCray: Things will continue to change faster than ever before, and you’ve got to adapt to them and adapt to the new technology. There’s no question. I think a lot of people think of the industry as old school and maybe stale. But, boy, that would be a mistake to think that. We’re surprised all the time at all the changes that are happening, and we have to adapt. Haynes: I think that’s the great thing about being with a family owned business: We don’t have to take the pressure from anybody else. We can make those decisions and stay focused on what we think is important to succeed. The business that won the 2005 Independent ProDealer of the Year Award, has maintained its laser sharp focus on the pro builder and contractor. But, in many other respects it continues to evolve into something new — new customers and new strategies. The company evolved from taking a hands-off approach to the remodeling market to becoming the National Association of the Remodeling Industry Vendor of the Year in 2017.

McCray Lumber operates seven locations in the Kansas City metro area, Lawrence and Topeka, Kan. The Edwardsville, Kan., location (above) regularly vies with the Liberty, Mo., yard for high-volume honors.

and that’s been good for us. We bought a new computer system at the downturn. We bought all new trucks and new forklifts—anything we could. The McCrays [brothers Hatch and CEO Chandler] invest heavily back within our operation. So, it’s made us more efficient. And that was an important part of the ramp up. We fix what we need to fix, and we upgrade what we need to upgrade. And that puts us in a pretty good position, I think. Bosley: For technology, I talk to other people in the industry who are in the know, and they say, “You do what?” We went to a new point-of-sale system. We’re on Agility DMSi, which gives us a lot of insights. Our internet phone system allows our team to answer a phone at their home as if they’re at their desk. I actually have more communication with my sales guys now, more efficacious communication,



McCray: For so long, we were very reliant on single-family new-home construction. Probably up until 10 years ago, I’d say it was probably 90-plus percent of our business. Then when the downturn hit, we realized we had to expand into other segments of the market. Gene [Bosley] spearheaded the remodeling big time for us, and we chased some commercial stuff and got into rehab projects and different types of segments that allowed us to not be more multidimensional. We cast a larger net now, and that’s really expanded our business. Haynes: We were the company that said, “contractor sales only,” on the door in 2005. When the downturn came, that sign came down. Every piece of lashing that we could sell or tube of caulk was important. McCray: We were considered off limits to so many people. Then they realized we were open for them, too.


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COVER FEATURE Bosley: When the downturn hit, I went out to our little picnic table outside and took a phone call from the president of a division of Pulte Homes. He said, “As of tomorrow, we’re out. We’re leaving town.” They went from our largest customer to zero. Stopped in the middle of projects. Well, it certainly helped to have that remodeling base in place. And It’s grown substantially since then. While adapting and growing the company has maintained, a focus on the pro customer, a strategy that’s built into the McCray DNA. Haynes: “There’s a 100% laser focus on the Pro customer. That’s just who we are. We sell a lot of products here [in Edwardsville], but the front door is locked. And it’s been locked since March 2020. We had a meeting recently when I said, “What’s the problem with keeping the door locked for a while more until we’re well beyond this?” And there was none. Bosley: “I piped up and said ‘Man, keep it locked.’ I like monitoring who comes through the door. If it’s a homeowner or someone looking for a deck, it gives us an opportunity to greet them immediately and say, “Hey, welcome. We’re all on the phone. Give us a moment. Feel free to browse around.” We can set the expectation that we’re helping our pro and when we can, we will help them. And we do help them. Haynes: “It hasn’t cost us anything. It’s still friendly here. And everybody gets it.” Hatch McCray is immediate past president of the Midwestern Lumberman’s Association. He is also a past attendee of the NLBMDA Legislative Summit. This latter event brings dealers from across the county to lobby their representatives on Capitol Hill on issues such as the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act, reasonable OSHA Crane Rules and other regulatory matters. McCray: We experienced a case where we delivered windows out to a site. We didn’t build the windows. We didn’t install the windows, and yet, here we were in the middle of a lawsuit. I remember the conversations we had, “Why are we in the middle of this mess?” Clearly, the windows were defective, and the fault was a combination of the product and the installer. And yet we’re in the middle of it. We ended up paying dearly. It was frustrating. A lot of these legislative issues are a big deal for us.



Top, McCray’s Lawrence, Kan., location. Bottom, custom doors are part of the attraction at the company’s upscale Millwork Showroom in the Fairfax district of Kansas CIty, Kan.

They really do matter. Think of all the things going on now , it’s more important than ever to be involved. Some of the issues about overtime from the Department of Labor, everyone’s dealing with it. Quality vendors are also part of the McCray way. McCray: “I really believe in sticking with highquality vendors and companies, and our core group of vendors hasn’t changed very much. And that’s by design. It’s important to find suppliers who are going to be committed to this industry and who are going to do what they say they’re going to do. We pick people that are going to be around for a long time. just like we’re going to be around.”



The team at Dakota County Lumber goes to market with a “Delivered Perfectly” mentality.

MINNESOTA, NICE! Meet the 2021 Independent ProDealer of the Year. By Ken Clark Outside sales rep Andy Theirl’s office at Dakota County Lumber sits just outside that of second-generation owner Sunny Bowman. Their proximity, along with Theirl’s natural ability to look at things from his customers’ point of view, means he’s usually one of the first in line to vet ideas that come out of the corner office, or fine tune them. Whatever the idea, from people to packages to pricing, the proof of the company’s success always seems to rest in the execution. The 26 employees at the yard operate as if they’re aware that their reputation is on the line with each transaction. “What Sunny tries to instill in us is the ‘Delivered Perfectly” mentality,” said Theirl, quoting the Farmington, Minn. company’s slogan. “A lot of our business is referrals from people who hear about us from our other customers. 28



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COVER FEATURE “We’re competitive, but we never go out and advertise that we’re going to be slashing prices,” added Thierl, who at five years on the job is a relative newcomer to the team. “What we advertise is topnotch service. A lot of people have heard that about us, and it usually works out.” Things have generally worked out very well for Dakota County Lumber Co., the 2021 Independent ProDealer of the Year. The award is presented annually by HBSDealer and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association to a yard that shows innovation, high performance and the values of the independent building supply industry. There are much larger players in the Minneapolis market, but DCL has carved a strong niche. “We’ve always had competition around us,” said Dean Bostrom, yard foreman who has been with the company since 1987. “But I don’t think we have ever thought of ourselves as an underdog.” Dakota County Lumber Company is no stranger to accolades, either. A Northwestern Lumber Association Dealer of the Year in 2019, a multiple year “Trillium” winner of Housing First Minnesota; and a 2019 Housing Industry Leader of the Year award — these are among the company’s hardware collection. “Having our team recognized for their hard work and dedication to doing business the right way, especially on the heels of an extremely challenging year, is extremely heartening,” said Bowman. “As an all-hands-on-deck operation, like so many other small independent yards, this award belongs to every single member of our incredible team.” The challenges of 2020 began with confusion over the state’s position on the pandemic-induced construction shutdown. Like many businesses throughout the state, DCL went into disaster planning mode and engaged in budget-revision sessions and experienced some sleepless nights. “And then, things just took off,” Bowman said. “We kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and things to slow down, but they just never did.”

I feel like a leader is only as effective as their delegation, so you’ve got to find good people, vet them, trust them, communicate with them, check in on them. Obviously, the communication is key, but if we are only growing to the point of my skillset, we’re stuck five years ago.” —Sunny Bowman, Dakota County Lumber



Business at Dakota County Lumber falls into three relatively equal slices: Deck builders, remodelers and new home construction.

The company finished the year up about 40% in sales, with a small amount of that growth attributed to commodity inflation. Total sales hit $21.5 million. And early 2021 is up 80% over the pre-pandemic 2020 (before the demand surge). With an emphasis on specialty products, DCL’s business breaks down into three relatively equal parts: deck builders, remodelers and new home construction. “I think that one of the reasons why we were so fortunate and insulated was because of our diversification into a lot of the specialty products because we found those niches where we could do well.” Case in point: Decking. DCL grew its business by taking a stocking position in some of the decking products and focusing on specific deck builders as they were entering the Twin Cities market. “It just took off, Bowman said. “It was a category in which we could be competitive early on, even as a small yard.” It also played to the company’s strengths in communication, delivery and customer service. Nate Betzold, operations manager, who does the lion’s share of the yard’s buying (and also sold about $3 million in lumber in 2020) helps manage the decking business, along with Tristan Goblirsch, inside sales. As a small independent,



THE EARLY DAYS OF DAKOTA COUNTY LUMBER CO. In 1984, Steve Finden was 31-year old hockey

The company kept waiting for sales to slow down in 2020. But they didn’t. Dakota County Lumber ended the year up 40%.

the was able to quickly identify these employee’s aptitude toward deck sales — whether its stocking up for demand or talking a customer through a purchase decision. Other DCL product niches can be seen inside the sales office. Several of the new offices are attractively adorned with LP Smart Side, Boral Versetta Stone and Marvin windows -- many of the same products that the company sells to builders and remodelers. Looking into the future and considering the overheated housing market and building material allocations and price increases, Bowman expects supply chain reliability will probably be the biggest issue of 2021. “I don’t see demand slowing down,” she said. As 2020 resembled a crash course in high-volume operations for the yard, this year marks a concerted effort to take a comprehensive, top to bottom and scientific approach to yard organization. Meetings are underway to consider property acquisitions, a new millwork building among other tactics. Meetings with drivers, yard managers and sales people are designed to come up with a solution, balancing the ideal vs. the economically feasible. At the Northwest Lumber Association, President Cody Nuernberg recognizes the company for operating with that hard-to-define extra strength. “From leadership down to the newest hire, the DCL team promotes service, excellence and a team atmosphere (within and with their customers) in everything that they do,” he said. “In a market where they may not be the biggest or the flashiest, they have found their niche and have solidified themselves as a player in the LBM space now and for many years to come,” he said. “Delivering lumber is really easy and it’s also really difficult,”



enthusiast and a former employee of Standard Lumber in Nisswa, Minn. With a single truck, a loan from his father in law and the belief that he can run a better business, he took over a property in his home town of Farmington that was once a Minnesota Department of Transportation Maintenance Building and turned it into Dakota County Lumber. Finden’s daughter Sunny entered the business in 2012, and purchased the business outright in 2018. She describes her father’s early approach as “pure hustle.” “He used to load the truck up overnight, and point it out the gate. At five in the morning, he’d drive the truck out, lock the gate behind him. At seven o’clock, he would open the doors for business,” she said. Terry Weierke, outside sales and an employee described as “the Rock of DCL” on the company website, was part of the early days. “We were delivering all night long at midnight we were dropping loads off because during the day we had to pull and do estimates,” he said. “We didn’t have drivers. We were bare boned.” A tradition that started early for the company is employee loyalty. “Everybody has been here a long time,” Terry said. “Even in those early years 1985 to 2000, we never lost anybody. It’s been loyal. We’ve all been here, we all work together here.” Another early hire is Dean Bostrom, a 32-year DCL veteran and yard foreman who remembers Sunny when she was in diapers, literally. “She cares,” Dean said. “Her dad cared. And that’s a big part of it. Everybody loves our service, and everything else.” Steve Finden founded the company in his hometown of Farmington, Minn., in 1984.

Bowman added. “The fundamentals of it are really easy, just do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. And that’s what we kind of try and hammer home.”



Do it Best looks to break the $4 billion barrier Supply chain and sourcing enter center stage for co-op. By Ken Clark There was a limited live audience for Do it Best Corp. CEO Dan Starr’s Kickoff Message during the co-op’s virtual buying event in March. But still, there were a few interruptions of spontaneous applause. For instance, the socially distanced crowd of relatively new co-op employees and assorted others applauded the announcement that the co-op was running at a record-breaking pace of sales and member rebates. Eight months into its fiscal year, the Fort Wayne, Ind.-based co-op was well on track to break past the $4 billion mark in sales for the year. “We are proud of the fact that we did not limit order size. We did not reduce deliveries. And we did not restrict access to product categories,” Starr added, generating more applause. Growth was reported in core categories such as paint, hand and power tools, hardware, lawn and garden and lumber and building materials. And recordbreaking growth hit the grill aisle, where grills and grill accessories lit up with an 85% increase. Other big numbers through the first 8 months of the fiscal year: Warehouse sales, up 28%; Direct sales, up 24%; Lumber, up 87% “And that’s all before we head into the busy spring selling season,” Starr added. Last month’s video presentation wasn’t quite what Do it Best had hoped for. It had hoped for a live event. “While we certainly would have preferred to be together in person for our market, there


The co-op intends to return en masse to Indianapolis Sept. 27-30.

is still much to be excited about as we continue helping our members grow,” said Starr about the March event. Do it Best Nation has circled the dates Sept. 27-30, 2021, for its live return to Indianapolis for an in-person buying event. A popular topic at any dealer gathering, either real or virtual, is the challenge of overcoming raw material

Dan Starr’s Kickoff Message included sales highlights.


shortages and a supply chain that was disrupted or caught off guard by the demands of the pandemic. Starr offered praise to the co-op’s employees on the front lines, maskedup, socially distanced and keeping the goods flowing. “Our top focus is on the supply chain, which has been greatly impacted by the pandemic and record high demand in both hardlines and lumber and building materials for the better part of a year now,” he said. Do it Best’s director of communications Randy Rusk explained during a press conference that the disruption of the supply chain has altered the mindset of the co-op when it comes to sourcing and securing product. “Our team has worked very hard to provide as many opportunities for our members to lock in their product needs for the next six months,” Rusk said. “That’s a little bit different for us, as markets tend to be focused heavily on deep discounts and seasonal items. We are working diligently with our members to have them focus more on strategic buying for the next six months. [That’s a] different approach from a traditional market.” In his presentation, Starr pointed to the co-op team’s dedication in the face of extreme weather events. That dedication included going to work bundled up and carrying flashlights in the Waco, Texas, distribution center, which experienced three straight days of without power during a February storm. “From the challenges of COVID to the more recent impact of the extreme winter weather across the country, our members and our team continue to demonstrate the very best of our industry,” he said.



Nation’s Best builds on momentum By Ken Clark Nation’s Best Holdings formed a joint venture with Do it Best Corp. in mid 2020. The activity since then includes the acquisition of Hometown Hardware in March and BTU Do it Center in February. Late last year, it picked up Connolly’s Do it Best Hardware & Rental as well as Simms Lumber. The moves are in line with the joint venture’s stated purpose of fueling growth in ways that drive sales over the long term. HBSDealer gained a closer look at Nation’s Best during a recent succession planning webcast led by Sam Brownell, the founder of Stratus Wealth Advisors. “Over the last 19 months or so, we have been fairly busy,” said Robert Debs, vice president of Dallas-based Nation’s Best. “Our objective is pretty simple,” he added. “We try to partner with the best in class companies and management teams across the country. We don’t necessarily look for turnaround stories.” The Nation’s Best portfolio consists of companies that have maintained their brand identity through the transition. Also common is the maintenance of the key leadership team, as was the case in the most recent acquisition of Hometown Hardware in Longview, Texas, “Merging with Nation’s Best is a great fit for Hometown Hardware,” said Ken Turner of Hometown. “This important step in our company’s history ensures our customers will be supported with a great selection of home improvement products and our employees will continue to offer the personalized, knowledgeable service we’re known for.”


BTU Do it Center in Las Vegas, N.M., is one of the seven brands and 19 locations of Dallas-based Nation’s Best Holdings. At left: Robert Debs, Nation’s Best vice president.

Emphasizing the point, he added that Marie Vale will continue in her role of store manager, post acquisition. The acquisition of BTU Do it Center in Las Vegas, N.M., also serves as a post-merger example of a key leadership team overseeing company operations alongside Nation’s Best. The Nation’s Best model strives to maintain operational consistency through ownership changes, he said. “Things always change. But our model is to try to ensure that things change as little as possible. So for example, we try to keep all of our stores in the same ERP system. It’s efficient, it’s the way we like to operate,” Debs said. Selling a business and going through a transaction can take a toll on the parties involved. One of the themes of the webcast is the importance of communication and avoiding surprises.


And when the deal is signed, in many cases that’s merely the beginning of the transaction, as opposed to the end of it. It’s not necessary for an owner or owners to remain with the brand post transition, but it can certainly help, Debs said. He explained: “We as an acquirer are sophisticated enough to understand how to transition through an acquisition, even if a former owner is no longer present— but it is helpful. A sale of a business can be very disruptive to the staff, no matter how well you communicate. For an owner to remain on during a transition, it can help make for a much smoother process for both the buyer and the seller.” The transactions and the business can’t be separated from the culture, Debs added. “It sounds like a cliche, but we say it all the time and I’m going to say it right now,” Debs said. “Our goal is to treat people the way we want to be treated. And so, I see that’s ingrained in all of us. We make that very clear when we first talk to the folks who are looking to potentially partner with us and sort of live by that day to day.”


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Kentucky’s hardware front runner Louisville’s Brownsboro Hardware & Paint sets the pace with customer service and e-commerce. By Andy Carlo Jim and Marilyn Lehrer became the owners of Louisville-based Brownsboro Hardware & Paint in June 1998. And since the day they bought the location, a focus has been placed on staff and customer service. Jim Lehrer says the company’s initiatives have helped ensure Brownsboro’s success. The Kentucky dealer has been recognized by HBSDealer twice as a Hardware All-Star, first in 2011 and then again in 2020. “Having plenty of great staff to help folks find what they need and get on to their project is essential,” Lehrer told HBSDealer. “We try to meet people at the door, help them assess their needs and then provide a solution.” The company has 40 employees, including full-time and part-time. During seasonal periods, Brownsboro hires younger employees who are trained in the retail industry while learning the importance of personal service. “That benefits them wherever they go in life,” Lehrer says. A Do it Best member, the dealer takes care of its seasoned employees as well. Some of Brownsboro’s longterm employees have been with the company for 10, 15, 20 years. “They are the number one reason we have grown to who we are today,” Lehrer points out. In 2011, Brownsboro purchased, remodeled, and opened a second Louisville location. Brownsboro’s customer base is about 90% DIY and 10% pro. The dealer serves mid to upper-income


neighborhoods in the city. In recent years, as Brownsboro has adjusted to the market, new brands have been brought on board including products from Yeti, The Big Green Egg, Traeger grills, and STIHL. Last year the dealer’s website received an upgrade while it expanded curbside pick-up and delivery programs. Although Brownsboro might be viewed as a traditional neighborhood hardware store to the casual observer, e-commerce plays a big role in its success. “Selling with our partners through omnichannel sales along with selling on our website is continuing to grow month over month,” Lehrer says. “We have exciting plans to expand that even further in the future.” Part of Brownsboro’s e-commerce success is keeping its site current and lively. Social Media also plays a key role in Brownsboro continuing to increase its followers and relevance. For example, during several days of snow and ice this past winter, Brownsboro was inundated with phone calls asking if it carried ice melt, shovels, or sleds. “We started telling people that we would post information on our social media channels as soon as new shipments came in,” Lehrer says. “We gained a lot of new customers and grew our social media channels as a result.” Future updates include streamlining its purchasing process with key vendors.


Owner Jim Lehrer (above) leads a demonstration at Brownsboro Hardware & Paint.

“We had a great year in 2020 and demand was way up,” Lehrer explains. “The supply chain was very challenging and we spent a significant amount of time sourcing product.” Brownsboro is also looking to become more responsive to the needs of customers through online sales and interactions. “Thanks to our customers and new technology, we have been continually able to grow to meet their everchanging needs,” Lehrer says. While Brownsboro may not have conquered all of the challenges that a hardware dealer might face, because challenges continue to evolve each year, Lehrer says he thinks his company has done a good job of giving back to the community it serves. Brownsboro annually helps dozens of charities through special fundraising events. The dealer’s annual EGGFest event has raised more than $175,000 in recent years. “Every day presents a new challenge and a new opportunity,” Lehrer says.



Talking solutions, distribution and service with Fortress Building Products By Andy Carlo


hether it’s decking, railing, fencing, framing materials or accessories, Fortress Building Products continues to push the innovation envelope. The Garland, Texas-based building products manufacturer continues to develop a steady flow of new products and new solutions for the residential construction and remodeling markets. HBSDealer discussed with Toby Bostwick, vice president of product and brand, how Fortress had evolved, services its customers, and sets itself apart from competitors. HBSD: Describe the product offerings and categories from Fortress Building Products along with how the company’s product focus has evolved in recent years? TB: Fortress has concentrated on adapting and modifying our business strategies to meet our customer’s evolving needs while maintaining focus on our primary goal: to improve and change the way people build and live. Our strategy begins with identifying customer needs, which then allow us to develop dedicated execution plans to ensure solutions are provided in the products, programs, and platforms set forth. We are currently developing product solutions across eight different categories: decking, railing, fencing, framing, lighting, pergolas, fasteners and cladding. HBSD: How has Fortress Building Products expanded its distribution reach? TB: Since we began focusing on delivering product solutions throughout


Composite decking, steel framing, and outdoor living products have been a focus of recent offerings from Fortress Building Products.



each channel of our customer base, it became clear that our distribution strategy needed to be flexible and dynamic. Entering the eCommerce marketplace has helped us reach more retail customers, and pursuing distribution partners in new markets that range from the traditional two-step and one-step distribution models has strengthened our reputation in the industry. Ultimately, our goal is not only to expand our footprint across the North American market but also globally. HBSD: What types of trends is Fortress Building Products identifying when it comes to endusers, including contractors and homeowners? TB: Aesthetics, performance, availability, and ROI continue to influence purchasing trends, and we do not see that changing anytime soon. The economy continues to see dramatic shifts in the availability of raw materials, increasing lumber prices and complicated global logistics; our focus is to deliver products that surpass customer expectations across each product category. HBSD: How is Fortress Building Products assisting its retail customers when it comes to marketing and selling products? TB: We have a dedicated leadership and product marketing team that focuses on providing clarity, marketing support and sales strategies for retail and


Our goal is never to provide a me-too product to the market, but rather, focus on providing an innovative solution to a true need that will ultimately change how our customers build and live. Because this mindset is at the core of each new The FortressView 3D product we develop, our visualizer tool leads strategy is always clear and customers through the the execution is intentional. deck design process. For example, our pre-welded and completely rackable eCommerce opportunities. railing and fencing systems offer an Understanding real needs at the effective solution for homeowners and consumer level has helped us reach building professionals who want an customers across each of these easier installation process, exceptional channels and bring value to each step product durability and enhanced of the buying process. By simplifying system safety. our messaging, we’ve made our products easy for retail customers to HBSD: With technology continuing understand — and also easier to buy. to rapidly change, how is Fortress embracing the latest tech to tell its HBSD: What are some of the story, assist customers and move product benefits Fortress Building products? Products offers that set it apart from competitors? TB: Information and the speed in which that information is delivered to the endTB: At Fortress, we not only want to user is so important in today’s world. deliver key product features and proven At Fortress, we have re-imagined our value, but even more importantly, we website and added dedicated tools to want to offer our customers a solution. ensure our customers feel informed and confident in the products are selecting. For example, We have a dedicated they FortressView is an interactive 3D leadership and visualizer tool that we added to product marketing our website last year. It guides customers through the deck team that focuses design process so they can on providing imagine what their dream outdoor clarity, marketing space will look like in a virtual support and sales “real world” setting. After they strategies for retail see their dream outdoor living and eCommerce space transform from concept to reality, we provide an auto opportunities. generated bill of materials and —Toby Boswick, Fortress Building Products the ability to track down product from a local lumberyard, retail location or a Fortress Preferred Installer. The clear and immediate next steps make their deck building experience easier, faster, and more fun. HARDWARE + BUILDING SUPPLY DEALER APRIL 2021



All around the grill


rills make for outstanding in-store vignettes or sidewalk-event showpieces. Lined up in rows, they advertise years of pleasant afternoons in the backyard or on the deck. But for many retailers, it’s the promise of add-on accessory sales that makes the category deliciously attractive.

Here’s a selection of notable new grill accessories:

Cowboy Cup Ideal for charcoal and gas grills, these single-use cups packed with natural wood chips are pre measured to instill just the right amount of smoke flavor to grilled foods. The backyard chef simply peels off the vent sticker and places the cup in the cooker. Each cup –here’s a pack of hickory, mesquite and apple—provides 30 minutes of flavorful cooking. Cowboycharcoal.com



Scripto Folding Lighter This folding utility lighter gets the party started. It folds down to 5-1/2 inches for easy storage in kitchen drawers, garages, and backpacks. At full length, the 11-1/4 inch lighter safely and easily ignites a heat source, plus it lights in multiple positions. Calicobrands.com


iGrill by Weber The smart home extends to the backyard with the Weber iGrill 2, an appconnected thermometer that tracks the heat of up to four cuts of meat, and sends a signal to a smart phone when an ideal temperature is reached. Bluetooth connectivity allows the backyard chef to monitor the “doneness” of food, without having to lift the grill lid. Meat probes can withstand all-day grilling and are heat resistant up to 716 degrees F. The batteries (included) last 200 hours. Weber.com

Mr. Bar-B-Que Collapsible Caddy New from Mr. Bar B-Que, a handy tray packs all the condiments and accoutrements to bring flavor to a backyard cook out. The innovation contained here is the ability to collapse for easy storage. Also, handles fold up and down as necessary. Panels allow for customized organization on the picnic table. Mrbarbq.com

General’s Grenade Sauce Packaged in grenade-like bottles, General’s Grenade Sauces are hot and spicey, and one of a dozens of eyecatching brands in the Mo Hotta Mo Better Inc. family of hot sauces and BBQ sauces. The General’s collection includes the Shock & Awe Grenade Hot Sauce and the Ded Red Grenade Hot Sauce. Mohotta.com


THE THRILL OF THE GRILL HERE ARE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM IN THE BBQ ARENA Everybody likes grilling and chilling in the backyard. But this year, the category is positioned to reach new levels of success thanks to a combination of socialdistancing and cabin fever. NPD Group’s Joe Derochowski, industry advisor for home and home improvement, pointed to five reasons the category is a growth opportunity in 2021. Here they are:


The season will be longer May to August is the traditional prime time for grilling. But because people have been so cooped up in homes, they are ready for extended outdoor activity. “I suspect consumers are going to get outside and start grilling earlier,” he said.


A growing appreciation of taste With so many indoor meals in the last 12 months, amateur cooks have probably gained confidence in preparing new meals and new cooking techniques. Pellet grills, smokers, charcoal grills are a logical next step in this DIYers journey.


Lunch time is different now Calling the at-home lunch break a “new life moment,” Derochowski described lunch as a kind of new frontier for home meal preparation, and one that could easily be filled with grills – especially quick and easy gas grills


Connection and comfort Family and friends are more important than ever. “I expect many more entertaining opportunities than usual,” he said. Accessories are going to be different


The passion of the grill People love it -- both for the food and for family and friends. “During this time we’re always looking for something positive, and grilling can be one of those solutions,” he said. “We have a great opportunity in 2021,” Derochowski said. “It’s just up to us being very innovative in the products and marketing that we do to take advantage of this moment.”




Qora Cladding is ready for ‘prime time’ By Ken Clark The team behind Qora Cladding had all the boxes checked when it came time to roll out the new stonelike cladding product in the United States. It’s lightweight. It’s easy to work with. It looks and feels like stone. And it even resists fire. But one box remained unchecked: timing. The product hit the market in February 2020, just as the pandemic turned builders’ attention away from new technology and toward more pressing matters—such as staying afloat. “You could not have picked a worse time to launch a building product,” said Mike Maddern, director of marketing and sales at Arcitell, makers of Qora Cladding. “Of course, we didn’t have a crystal ball.” But according to Maddern, the team behind the new product focused on what they could control during such unusual times for the industry. Arcitell went into ramp-up mode with product, which it describes as an easy-to-install cladding with the time-honored look of stone and high performance and aesthetic appeal. “We had to tough it out, and keep the message going,” Maddern said. “We’re a new product, so 2020 for us was really about focusing on our core operations, driving down our early higher R&D costs, remodeling our plant, and trying to put the time to good use.” But according to Maddern, the rollout effort focused on what they could control during such unusual times for the industry. Arcitell went into ramp-up mode with product, which it describes as an easy-to-install cladding with the time-honored look of stone and high


Ease of installation (left) is among the features of the lightweight Qora Cladding. A heavy-duty and proprietary resin blend helps give the product its stone-like appearance (above).

performance and aesthetic appeal. And that’s what the company did. Qora Cladding, made in Sugarcreek, Ohio, today has advanced beyond its “minimal viable product” stage and is bringing more patterns and styles to market. Maddern says the product is much better prepared for the prime time residential market this year than last, and distribution is in place (including a recent deal with Florida-based distributor Advanced Aluminum). Meanwhile, the feedback he’s received from the building trades is encouraging. “It’s been kind of cool hearing the feedback,” Maddern said. “It goes up faster. It looks and feels real. It takes a beating. It won’t burn. We’re hearing ‘Get me more styles and colors.’

“It goes up faster. It looks and feels real. It takes a beating. It won’t burn.” —Mike Maddern, Director of Marketing, Arcitell


And those are coming. Most of our feedback has been, ‘Hey, we need a broader portfolio.’ And that is what he have addressed.” Another feature: Qora offers the largest size panel in the market, measuring in at 6.5 sq. feet, and ramping up to 12. With larger panels, use of the product results in a much-reduced number of seams. The background of Qora Cladding goes back to Belden Brick, which has been a Canton, Ohio-area brick maker for more than a century. A division of Belden paired with an Italian company that owned the patent for a certain blend of fiberglass and Phenolic resin (a heavy duty resin commonly found in bowling balls and countertops) for use in exterior siding. A joint venture agreement led to the creation of Arcitell, and ultimately to Qora Cladding. Maddern is looking to bring the company’s message to a larger audience. “I think people really, really like the look and feel or Qora Cladding, the workability, the weight, the durability, the fire resistance. It’s easy to install and that’s by design, he said. After you get the first two panels going it’s a no brainer.”


True partnership means being there when times are at their toughest. Thank you for standing with Charlotte Pipe during the uncertainty of 2020 and beyond.


Homes for volatile times Shifts in home design lead to opportunities for building products By Ken Ryan The American home has landed on the long list of institutions that are experiencing a new-normal, thanks to the pandemic. And changes in the way people use their home — and how they expect their home to perform — have led to challenges and opportunities for the building products industry. “Families have incredibly different needs,” said Mikaela Sharp, manager, trends and innovation, for John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Joined by colleague Tim Seims, director of building products intelligence, the John Burns Real Estate Consulting tandem took part in the HBSDealer webinar: Home Designs and Opportunities for Building Products, a webcast sponsored by Epicor. Sharp and Seims touched on several key trends within home design and identified opportunities for builders and suppliers. Here are some of the highlights:

Work from Home

COVID-19 accelerated the “work from home” movement that is likely to become permanent for millions of Americans. According to John Burns’ data, there were 5 million people who primarily worked from home (defined as 10 or more hours per week) prior to COVID. During COVD in 2020, approximately 22 million worked from home. Post-COVID, 9 million people are expected to work from home—an 80% increase from pre-COVID levels. Multiple, flexible workspaces around the home are figured to become the new norm. In a survey of 1,140 homeowners asked to name important home office


Experts from John Burns Real Estate Consulting shed light on the proliferation of home-office spaces.

features, lighting was the leader. Potential solutions are sun tunnel skylights, which he described as a cost-effective way to add natural light. Natural light imitation stands to gain, also. At the 2020 International Builders’ Show, for example, Marvin unveiled Awaken Skylight, which utilizes digital technology to offer new ways to connect with and experience light, air and home environments. “Both these solutions do not require a lot of stock or raw materials as other building products,” Seims added.

Further research showed that young families, when given a choice, are more likely to choose healthy home features over energy efficient ones. Atop the list of healthy products are air filtration/purification systems (58%). “This trend is being prioritized by young families who care deeply about indoor air quality and will want to know about Indoor airPLUS certification,” Sharp said. Building products and solutions for the healthy home include exterior foam insulation, smart vents and air monitoring systems. Seims suggested home owners are becoming increasingly enlightened about additional 1-inch insultation to crawl spaces. “It’s not just about exchanging air and venting,” Seims said. “It is important to look at the entire wall assembly.”

Healthy homes

Privacy/noise solutions

The focus on home health has surged in recent years and grown during the pandemic. According to Sharp, 76% of young homeowners (millennials) said they are taking more steps to promote their physical health than they did a year ago. Mental health was a close second at 69%.


Four-fifths of homeowners in urban areas worry about neighbors seeing inside their home or yard. This is also a concern in rural areas. As a response, Seims pointed to long landscape windows and sliders as well as bullet windows placed high on walls that can be installed as one unit.


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Privacy is playing an increased role in window placement tactics (left). And the need for soundproofing opens opportunities for indoor solid-core doors


Within the home, Sharp said there are also concerns for privacy among home office workers who need a separation from the rest of the household. Other than placement of home offices on a


separate floor, Seims suggested solid core doors and door sweeps to deaden the sound. Barn doors, by the way, have their strengths, but they get low marks for sound proofing.


Floor Plans

Floor layouts are also changing, from wide open to more private and strategic layouts—a trend that has also increased since COVID. Sharp said pass-through kitchens and nook libraries help break up the look of the room. What’s more, movable wall systems that can temporarily turn a space into a guest bedroom or multipurpose room are trending. As more homeowners stay home, builders are packing more function into residences. Time was that homeowners eschewed home gyms for a boutique fitness center down the block or opting for workspaces outside the home. “Now we need all of these things,” Sharp said, adding that builders are scaling these


spaces down to be more functional. Additional space outside the home in the form of prefab solutions can be used as multifunction spaces when there is no more room inside.


No longer used exclusively for cooking and eating, today’s kitchen “is truly a hub,” Sharp said. It’s a place where residents are just as likely to create arts and crafts as meals. She added that a ne third of young families even do their laundry in the kitchen. The downside to multifunctional kitchens with open layouts is clutter. To combat this, architecture firms are looking to create kitchens that are more efficient, more functional, and easier to clean.



Ease of cleaning and storage are two prevalent trends within home design, and both are important to homeowners when it comes to bathrooms. Sharp said storage is “super important.” In fact, she emphasized “the number one bathroom deal breaker for every life stage except for those mature couples is storage.” And as with other areas of the home, ease of cleaning is more important to young homeowners than size or design/style of the bathroom. The replay of the John Burns Real Estate Consulting webcast is available at HBSDealer.com/webinars, along with the full library of HBSDealer presentations.


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McGuckin’s four-digit growth story An integrated eCommerce and an astronomical sales increase An intitiative at McGuckin Hardware of Boulder, Colo., led to a web sales increase in excess of 1,000%.

There have been some big numbers tossed around recently to describe sales growth in the hardware and building supply industry. But here’s one that jumps out exceptionally glaring: a 1,320% increase in web sales at McGuckin Hardware. That number is the result of a project described as a digital commerce overhaul with curbside pickup. Bill Harrison, technical operations manager at McGuckin, led an early adoption of Orgill’s Integrated eCommerce program, which included Unilog’s cloud-based eCommerce solution and a subscription to Orgill’s


Industry PIM product catalog. The platform, with its inbuilt product information management tool, would enable McGuckin to unify their sales channels and create an online shopping experience to mirror their store, while the massive product catalog would provide a virtual endless aisle of products for their customers. With new items added and updated daily, the Industry PIM catalog currently offers Orgill dealers more than 800,000 items with enriched product content including images, product descriptions, specs and attributes, related documents, and


more. “In the past, I’ve had numerous people working on enriching data and it’s been incredibly timeconsuming,” said Harrison. “So, to have a single entity come in and enrich all our product in a timely manner was huge for us.” With the launch of their new McGuckin.com site, the retailer is now able to provide a stellar shopping experience for customers with a host of new products, features, and tools. McGuckin, as a result, is seeing more site traffic, increased customer engagement, and a surge in online sales. Online shoppers can now choose from 80,000 enriched products which represent nearly 95% of McGuckin’s instore items. The catalog is maintained and updated to ensure the retailer has the most current product information available for their customers. Harrison says “the added product content has definitely been a game changer; it’s made a considerable difference to our customers.” Grant Morrow, eCommerce Program Manager at Orgill, says “Working with the McGuckin team has been fantastic. They are an extremely savvy bunch.


ECOMMERCE “Working with the McGuckin team has been fantastic. They are an extremely savvy bunch. McGuckin took on a whole lot of change in a short period of time.” —Grant Marrow, eCommerce Program Manager, Orgill

McGuckin took on a whole lot of change in a short period of time.” McGuckin not only converted their eCommerce site to the Orgill Integrated eCommerce program during a critical time of the coronavirus lockdowns in early 2020, but they were also simultaneously converting loyalty programs from Ace Rewards to be an early adopter of the Orgill built FanBuilder customer loyalty platform, which McGuckin has branded “McGuckin Rewards.” The rewards program is integrated


with both Epicor Eagle and the eCommerce website, so McGuckin customers can get rewards online and in-store and customers can have an online dashboard of their status towards getting a reward. “McGuckin’s brand is strong and we are excited how eCommerce and loyalty combined together could empower McGuckin and other future dealers to new heights,” says Morrow. Harrison says they are impressed how well the Orgill and Unilog platform


has integrated with their existing ERP, Epicor Eagle. The backend system synchronization enables them to display real-time pricing and availability on their eCommerce site and automate order processing. “The further we go along in this process, the better it gets.” While in-store and curbside pickup options trend with local customers, McGuckin also offers Ship to Me delivery to anyone in the U.S. Harrison says their number of Ship to Me orders is comparatively lower than their local pickup orders, but they are typically bigger sales because they are purchasing highticket items like power tools. He adds that McGuckin gift cards are also a popular Ship to Me item, especially during the holidays. “The Ship to Me capability is a big advantage for us because we get a lot of people


McGuckin Hardware is known as “Colorado’s Favorite Everything Store.”

who order gift cards and have them shipped to another party. If the alternate shipping address feature wasn’t possible with the platform, we wouldn’t be able to offer this valueadded service,” remarked Harrison. In less than a year, the Orgill

customer’s site has already delivered impactful results. In the first month of their site launch, web traffic numbers more than doubled compared to the year prior and web sales jumped 1320%. Harrison attributes this, in part, to the high demand for online ordering at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, but also because of their more expansive online product catalog. Even now, nearly a year after their go-live, their web sales are well over 1000% compared to the same period the year before. McGuckin’s in-store average order

Your business needs a partner who is flexible, experienced and transparent HBSDealer.com

value (AOV) has also increased by 23%, despite their customer count declining 16%. Online AOV has grown 34% with the help of promotions, clearance sales, and their “Customers also bought” feature at the bottom of product detail pages. It presents McGuckin customers with similar and complementary products related to their item search, which helps them fill their shopping cart. While they are monitoring key website metrics, Harrison acknowledges they are still not anywhere close to where they need to be as far as tracking their site performance. “There’s so much more we can be doing to analyze data,” he admitted. “We want to dig deeper to find opportunities to enhance our digital branch, increase engagement, and grow sales.”

LBM Advantage is one of the largest member-owned buying cooperatives in the country. Our legacy dates back to 1937 when a group of Midwest dealers pooled their shingle purchases to get the best price. Today we serve independent dealers across the United States with competitive purchasing programs and regional buying expertise. What sets us apart is our focus on your success, operating on three fundamentals: flexibility, experience, and transparency. LBM Advantage’s mission is to create a competitive advantage for its members by leveraging their collective power.

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The loss of two leaders The hardware and building supply industry lost two leaders last month: Fenton Hord, the former CEO of Stock Building Supply, and Costello’s Ace Hardware’s Doug Cashmere. Hord, a titan in the LBM industry, passed away on March 9 at age 74. Hord joined the former Carolina Builders as executive vice president in Raleigh, N.C. in 1987 before being named CEO just a few months later. At the time, Carolina Holdings had just seven yards. Under Hord’s leadership, the company became Carolina Holdings and made a series of strategic acquisitions, evolving into a national supplier of building materials. The company took on the Stock Building


Doug Cashmere

Fenton Hord

Supply banner, with Hord retiring in 2007. When Hord retired Stock was a 350-location, $5 billion LBM giant. Stock merged with Building Materials Holding Corporation. (BMC) in 2015. Doug Cashmere of Costello’s Ace Hardware died suddenly in his


Maryland home on March 21 at the age of 61. The retail leader carried the title of VP Hearth & Spa, Outdoor Living and Acquisitions for the Deer Park, N.Y.-based retail company, Ace’s third largest chain in the U.S. According to Costello’s Ace Hardware CEO Michael Costello, the company was shocked by his sudden death, of which the cause is unknown. As a retailer, Cashmere’s impact expanded well beyond those duties described in his title, Michael Costello said. According to Ken Goodgame, Costello’s senior VP of marketing and merchandising, Doug Cashmere “touched the lives of everyone at Costello’s, and he was a mentor for many people.”



TAL Holdings expands in Washington TAL Holdings LLC, the dealer with 10 retail building material centers in Oregon and Washington, reported that it has reached an agreement in principle to acquire Mount Vernon Building Center (MVBC) in Mount Vernon, Wash. An all-employee meeting was held to announce the acquisition by TAL to the MVBC employees, TAL said. After a transition period, Mount Vernon Building Center will begin operations as part of the TAL family of companies on April 19. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Mount Vernon Building Center was founded in 1981 by Milt and Sue Armstrong as a sister location to three other area lumberyards. Business growth forced a move to a larger facility in 1991.

Tum-A-Lum Lumber of Oregon is the oldest division in the TAL Holdings family.

“Since MVBC’s beginning, the company has been focused on builders, remodelers and do-it-yourselfers,” said Kevin Kok, MVBC owner. “The company has always been involved

in the Mount Vernon community as sponsors of many non-profit entities such as schools, churches, homeless shelters as well as youth sports activities. The community-mindedness of MVBC fits well with the mission statement of TAL Holdings which is ‘Helping Build Better Communities.’” TAL currently operates a reload center in Burlington, Wash. where it receives, reloads, and ships every weekday on the Washington State Ferry system. All products are stocked and sold at TAL’s Friday Harbor, Wash. location. The dealer said that it will be transition the Friday Harbor reload center from its current leased site to the MVBC location. “Mount Vernon Building Center



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“The company has always been involved in the Mount Vernon community as sponsors of many non-profit entities such as schools, churches, homeless shelters as well as youth sports activities. The communitymindedness of MVBC fits well with the mission statement of TAL Holdings which is ‘Helping Build Better Communities.’” —Kevin Kok, MVBC

has a strong, experienced employee group. Their years of experience in our industry make their locations the place to go for building solutions for the consumer as well as the contractor,” said TAL CEO David Dittmer. “This acquisition is an excellent addition to our company. We are anxious to expand our footprint in this growing market.” Based in Vancouver, Wash., TAL Holdings operates five LBM/Home Center divisions. The dealer’s divisions include TumA-Lum Lumber, founded in 1906, serving the Hood River, The Dalles, and Pendleton markets in Oregon; Marson and Marson Lumber, founded in 1955, serving the Leavenworth, Wenatchee, and Cle Elum markets of Washington; Browne’s Home Center, founded in 1947, serving the San Juan Islands of Washington; Gerretsen Building Supply, founded in 1923, serving the Roseburg, Ore. market; and Lake Chelan Building Supply, founded in 1979, serving the Manson and Chelan markets of North Central Washington.


Gina Schaefer makes leadership ‘Cool’ Top Women profile series

By Ken Clark

A recent “Ace Heartware Stories” video presents Gina Schaefer in her element. In the video, she talks about her team, her community, and her 13-store chain’s policy of giving people second chances. The video is a moving tribute to the power of independent businesses to change communities for the better, and it has more than 112,000 views on Youtube. Schaefer, a member of the 2020 class of HBSDealer’s Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply and owner of A Few Cool Hardware Stores, shared more inspirational thoughts on her approach to the hardware business during a recent leadership talk with fellow Ace dealers. Here are some highlights. Her college days and early community service: “Once a month the [Wittenberg University] football coach would invite me into the science auditorium to give a presentation to the football team about why they have to do their community service. Most of the guys didn’t care. They were really nice guys, but they wanted to be on the field. And here I was, 5-foot-2, in this huge auditorium with enormous men, and I’m telling them why they need to come with me to a soup kitchen or to an elementary school. “Some of them who I’m still friends with laugh about those memories of me being so bossy. And I also have a lot of fond memories of seeing them grow into their skills as role models.” Her first job: “Waiting tables, I think, teaches you a lot about retail. It’s about taking care of customers and taking care of teammates.” Her least favorite job: “It was the job right before I opened Logan Hardware in 1998, in the tech industry. The CEO had $5 million from investors, all from New Zealand. I had to get in touch with all


to think it’s any different than going into any other career, and if you’re excited about it, then do it. Something like 70% of businesses are never started because of fear. If hardware is someone’s passion, then do it. Whether you’re a man or a woman.” On giving people second chances: “In 2003, an employee, Mark, came to me from a drug clinic down the street, and he said, ‘I’ve been clean for six months, I want a job.’ Eighteen years later, Mark is the man who runs inventory for our entire company. He invited someone, who invited someone, who invited someone, and the next thing I knew, we sort of organically built this culture of ‘recovery hardware.’ “Getting a job right out of recovery is a really big deal. And we sort of by accident became that job for this community.” Thoughts on her legacy. “I want to be known for being brave, pioneering the revitalization of Logan Circle. And I want to be known for giving a bunch of really cool people jobs, when maybe nobody else wanted to.”

Schaefer’s comments were made during a “Lunching with Leaders” virtual event hosted by Costello’s Ace Hardware, based in Deer Park, N.Y.

of these absolutely wonderful Kiwis and explain to them that all of their money was gone. That was my least favorite job.” The origin of Logan Hardware: “I came home one day, I had a really bad commute. I told my husband: ‘I’m not going to drive any more. I’m not going to work for that man anymore.’ (It could have been a woman, but it just happened to a man). And [my husband] said, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said, ‘I’m going to open a hardware store.’ And the rest is history.” Advice to those considering a career in hardware: “The first thing I would say is there’s no reason


The role of women in hardware and building supply business: “One of the things I’m most proud of is helping to start the women in retail group at Ace, because I think that there was a disconnect between how many of us are actively involved in the business. Whether we’re owners, business partners HR managers, marketing managers or whatever. And I wanted the women on my team to know that that group existed, and that they were supported in that way. “I think I’ve had an opportunity in my role to do some really cool things that will help, hopefully, lift up other women in the industry and promote a more diverse population. The hardware world is not a very diverse world, and I really want that to be a bigger part of the future of the business. I think it has to be for us to survive.”


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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS A new era begins at Builders FirstSource There’s a new chief executive officer at Builders FirstSource The pro dealer giant has officially appointed Dave Flitman as CEO. The planned transition of the CEO role is taking place 90 days after Builders Flitman FirstSource (BFS) and BMC Stock Holdings, Inc. (BMC) announced the completion of their all-stock merger transaction and coincides with the previously announced retirement plan of former BFS CEO Chad Crow. “This is truly an exciting time for Builders FirstSource,” Flitman said. “I firmly believe that growth is what’s at the heart of this merger — consolidating and expanding our reach in a fragmented industry, innovating and building on our valueadd offerings, and giving our people the resources needed to deliver the enhanced service our customers expect from us,” Following the merger, BFS now consists of 550 locations in nearly 40 states. The super dealer also has a presence in 85 of the top 100 metro markets. “By uniting our companies, we have increased our size

and market position, and this strategic combination is a transformational step forward for our team members, customers and shareholders,” Flitman noted. “While we are still in the early phases of the integration process, the seamless transition and remarkable success that have defined our merger thus far would not have been possible without Chad’s leadership. I want to thank him for his dedication and guidance, and I wish him the very best in retirement.” Flitman has more than three decades of experience in leading distribution businesses across multiple industries. Prior to the merger, Flitman served as president and CEO of BMC. Previously, he held the titles of president and CEO of Performance Foodservice; chief operating officer of Univar; president of Univar USA and chief supply chain officer; executive vice president and president of water and process services at Ecolab. Crow also had solid words for Flitman and the future of the company. “I would like to thank everyone who supported me throughout my career at Builders FirstSource,” Crow said. “When I joined BFS more than 20 years ago, it was, of course, much smaller, having only completed a few acquisitions at that time. I could not have dreamed this company would be where it is today – an industry leader — but more importantly, such a special place to work filled with incredible people, and where I have developed life-long friendships. I’m incredibly proud of the growth we’ve achieved over the last two decades. This strategic merger marks an extraordinary new chapter for Builders FirstSource, and I’m confident it will thrive under Dave’s leadership.” Crow will remain available on a consulting basis to support the integration and to ensure an orderly transition. Builders FirstSource is based in Dallas, Texas. Along with supplying lumber and building products, the company’s portfolio includes prefabricated components, and valueadded services to the professional market segment for new residential construction and repair and remodeling.

LMC names new CEO

LMC, the forest products and building materials buying group, announced that it has a new president and CEO. Paul Ryan will succeed John Somerville who previously announced that he will retire in June after 11 years with LMC. Ryan joined LMC in 2016 and has served as senior vice president of Ryan finance and technology. Before joining LMC, Rya served as chief financial officer for Affiliated Distributors (AD), the building materials and industrial products buying group. He started his career at Affiliated Distributors as controller before being promoted to vice president of finance, and finally CFO. Prior to joining AD, Ryan was the financial controller for VWR International, a distributor of lab supplies, after serving nine years with Ernst & Young as a CPA.




“Paul’s experience at LMC, as well as, 17 years working within the co-op world makes him a great fit to lead LMC,” Somerville said. “In his tenure at LMC, he has driven remarkable efficiencies within our organization and enhanced our use of technology, setting us on a solid growth path into the future.” LMC Chairman Charlie Kreyer added, “In the last five years, Paul has spearheaded many notable improvements within LMC and dramatically enhanced the use of technology to better serve all its members. He has proven his ability to advance our co-op and understands the unique challenges that lay ahead. “ Under Ryan’s leadership, LMC will remain committed to creating advantages that provide a competitive edge for its independent lumber & building material dealers, the Wayne, Pa.-based buying group said. Last year, LMC had collective retail sales of over $17 billion. “I am excited about the opportunity to lead LMC into the future with a team that understands the importance of building a world-class organization within a competitive industry,” Ryan said. “Building on our current initiatives, I look forward to driving the future growth of LMC and our LMCDealers.” LMC has more than 1,400 dealer locations in the United States and the Bahamas.


Do it Best Corp. has named Josh Ratcliff as its Division Manager of Forest Products, effective immediately. Ratcliff joined the co-op in 2018, most recently serving as the Division Manager of Lumber and Reload Operations. He will lead a team of product sales managers who purchase and sell Ratcliff dimensional lumber products, as well as panels, treated lumber, and engineered wood. Josh and his team will continue pushing for aggressive growth in panels while enhancing treated lumber and engineered wood sales. “We are confident that Josh’s move allows for an increased focus on providing greater opportunities for our LBM member-owners,” said Vice President of Lumber and Building Materials Gary Nackers. “We are continuing to invest in our team to serve our members even better and optimize our vendor partnerships.” “Our company is better positioned today to capitalize on significant growth opportunities while maintaining the most efficient operations in our industry,” said Mike Ter Molen, director of LBM Operations.



Residential Construction/Sales

Monthly Retail Sales, not adjusted

13 months of housing starts and existing-home sales

home centers and pro dealers (NAICS 444) and hardware stores (NAICS 44413)

Total starts


(in thousands, SAAR) Feb.: 1,421,000

NAICS 44413

(sales in $ billions)



(sales in $ billions)






2.36 36.0











2.17 1.90

























Single-family starts












(in thousands, SAAR) Feb.: 1,040,000 1400

HBSDealer Stock Roundup


the percent-change performance of stocks based on April. 1 prices





1000 900




















Existing-home sales (in millions, SAAR) Feb.: 6,220,000 7


























4 3.5


















Consumer Watch Unemployment rate

Consumer confidence

Gas prices

for the entire United States

indexed to a value of 100 in 1985

average price per gallon (regular)






Current Prior month


Prior year




March 0.0

$2.50 $2.00











Apr. 1








As the largest LBM co-op in North America the advantages of joining LMC are leaps and bounds above others.

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Buy direct from manufacturers.

From LMC's low business costs to group purchasing power. Our members always increase their bottom line.

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