New Orleans Lumberyard Celebrates 70 Years

New Orleans — A family business that began with a stack of lumber in a New Orleans front yard is celebrating its 70th anniversary this week.

Founder Sam Dash Diecidue at a job site in 1970s
Founder Sam “Dash” Diecidue at a job site in 1970s.

The Dash Lumber & Supply story begins in  1946, when Salvatore “Sam” Diecidue was adding on to his home for his growing family. In honor of the company’s seven decades, they sent the following press release:

“In 1946, 46-year-old first generation New Orleanian and Italian American, Salvatore “Sam” Diecidue sought a way to add on to his 9th Ward home for his growing family. Supplies were limited at the time because production had shifted to the war effort. Undaunted, Sam found a solution: he would harvest the lumber from a small parcel of land that was given as store-credit to his Sicilian family’s grocery store in Lacombe, La. That resourcefulness launched one of New Orleans’ most successful family-owned building supply enterprises, Dash Lumber & Supply. Four generations of the Diecidue family – pronounced Dásh-ê-dü – have worked together to provide gypsum, lumber, doors, windows, trim, and many other building essentials, for thousands of residential and commercial building projects across the Gulf South. This year marks Dash’s 70th anniversary. The company will host an open house on Wednesday, May 4, at its 9100 Chef Menteur location. The event celebrated not only Dash, but also its team, customers, and the entire surrounding community.

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“This business had a very simple, humble beginning. Thanks to the commitment of several generations of our family, our dedicated team and the continued support and business from the community, it’s a success story, and we’re proud to share it,” says company CEO Michael Diecidue, one of Sam’s grandsons.

According to Michael, after Sam harvested the lumber he needed, he kept the valuable commodity stacked next to his Kentucky Street home. It wasn’t long before neighbors noticed and offered to buy more from him. Sam’s son, Joe, a merchant mariner returning from the war, started helping his father with these early orders. The business never slowed, and it wasn’t long before Sam Dash & Sons Lumber Co. was born in the yard of the Diecidue’s home.

In 1969, the company moved to its current location on Chef Menteur Highway where it expanded its warehouse space in 2004. Another location on St Claude Ave was open in 1980 in place of the Kentucky St house, but later closed in the mid-90’s due to the need for more warehouse and shipping area. The location of the Chef store placed the company at the cross roads of many interstates and highways to make delivery efficient.

Diecidue Family
Diecidue Family, seated from left to right: Joe Dash “Papa”, Terry Diecidue, next row standing: Michael Diecidue, Amy D. Savoie, Joe Rolf, back row standing: Michel Diecidue, Kathryn Wittenburgh, and Gary Diecidue

With the economic downturn of the 1980s and the advent of Big Box retailers, Dash began to focus more on contractors and developers. The company soon began developing an outside sales team to help build business regionally.

Although the business suffered extensive flood, wind and equipment damage, Dash was the first lumberyard post-Katrina to open in East New Orleans. The Dash Lumber & Supply team helped hundreds of families get back into their homes after the storm. New Orleans music legend Irma Thomas was one of the homeowners in the area who bought materials from Dash to rebuild her home that was destroyed by flooding. By 2011, the business focus finally began to transition from community rebuild projects, back to new residential projects. The business also saw growth in the commercial and multi-family sector.

Dash continues to offer various lines of gypsum, millwork, plywood, lumber, siding, insulation and hardware. All of their wood products come from renewable resources. The company serves a 60-mile radius, with the largest market share coming from contractors handling residential projects. Working with more than 60 vendors has enabled Dash to position itself competitively in the market for both residential home quotes and commercial bids with large building material packages. Dash is also involved in a national co-op that allows them to get high quality items at the best prices with well-known brands.

On average, Dash sells about 9 million board feet of lumber annually, and fills more than 20,000 orders each year. Viewed another way: If the average subdivision development has 48 homes, whose average size is 2400 square feet, Dash’s annual sales volume would match the quantity needed to build homes to fill 10 subdivisions.

Building products sold through Dash can be found in a wide range of structures in New Orleans; from custom-made column capitals for historic uptown New Orleans mansions, to various materials throughout the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music @ Musician’s Village. Dash also provided thousands of interior doors plus materials to create wood cornices for Marriott hotel renovation work at various properties throughout New Orleans.

Elliott Kuhn, Cindy Dillenkoffer, Joe Dash %22Papa%22, Lisa Witfield, Michel Diecidue
Elliott Kuhn, Cindy Dillenkoffer, Joe Dash “Papa”, Lisa Witfield, Michel Diecidue

“We are a full service lumber yard,” Michael says. His middle daughter, Amy, is the company’s Millwork Manager and Business Developer. She also has a degree in Interior Design from LSU, and worked for a commercial architecture firm for 8 years prior to joining the Dash team. Michael says that Amy provides assistance to customers who need help with the design process: including specifications, bidding, and submittals to meet their project budgets. “Amy is a knowledgeable, full-service partner in every project. That’s a great advantage for us.”

Michael’s father, Joe or “Papa,” as he is known affectionately, is 90 years old and still reports to work every day. He drafts by hand at his drafting table, and also works in customer service. Terry Diecidue, Michael’s wife, serves as Vice-president and Director of Sales. Before joining Dash in 1980, Terry worked with two other lumber yards and became the first female Store Manager and Outside Sales representative in the area. While oldest daughter Kathryn handles business administration and team development, a younger daughter, Michel, works with the inside sales team and as graphic designer. Michael’s brother Gary is purchasing manager, and his sister’s son Joe is millwork coordinator.

Thirty-five percent of Dash’s employees have been with the company for more than a decade. Others – like shipping supervisor Schaffer Barclay, outside salesmen Wallace Allen and Bob Burns – have worked with Dash for 20 to 30 years. The Diecidues maintain a philosophy of continuing their staff’s education and training in customer service.

Community service is another tenet of the Dash philosophy: From donating materials to the Tulane School of Architecture to helping NOLA Tilth – a community garden that works in tandem with the VEGGI Farmers’ Cooperative in NO East – Dash has been an active contributor to local non-profit efforts. Earlier this year, a team representing Dash participated in the Crescent City Classic and raised $6,000 in support of New Orleans Musician’s Clinic. The company also recently made a significant materials donation to St. Bernard Project to help a family restore their damaged home, after being forced to wait for 10 years.

For the company’s May 4 Open House raffle, Dash chose Project Homecoming as a beneficiary because of the organization’s work for Dash’s neighbors in Gentilly. “We take pride in supporting and celebrating the businesses and citizens community in the East,” Kathryn says. “One reason for our success is due to the loyalty and support of our customers and our community. This is our chance to say ‘thank you.’”

With multifamily and commercial work expanding across the state of Louisiana, the growth of New Orleans real estate market, and the Northshore residential market developments, the future of the business is strong and long-lasting. “Sam Dash would be very pleased to see what started in his front yard has grown in to something with great community roots and a bright future,” Michael says.

Full staff of Dash Lumber & Supply.
Full staff of Dash Lumber & Supply.