Pandemic reveals strength of connections

Five years ago, when I first started covering this industry at LBM Journal, I was struck by how close the community of lumber dealers really is. I recall speaking to a dealer from Florida who told me about a friend with a successful lumberyard in North Dakota. I’m not sure how the two knew each other, but it’s possible that they had either worked together as part of an NLBMDA committee, or maybe had crossed paths at a manufacturer’s booth at the International Builder’s Show. No matter how they met, the two had forged a bond that has been beneficial to each of their businesses.

Indeed, the industry is full of closely-knit connections like these, and as a result, so is this issue of LBM Journal. Take for instance the cover story on Bayview Building Materials. Jim DePrett and Rick Jensen, co-owners of the Washington lumberyard, first met each other as hardware store managers more than 20 years ago. The connection they formed led them to open Bayview years later, and because of their mutually beneficial expertise in lumber and hardware retail, the company was well set to handle the COVID-19 pandemic in one of the first states to consider residential construction a non-essential business during the shutdown.

Speaking of their story, we were first scheduled to feature the Bayview team in our May issue, but since they weren’t open for business, we instead focused on retailers who were weathering the pandemic in different parts of the country (Staying Strong, May 2020).

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I recall that as I was interviewing dealers for that story, two of them told me they had called nearby competing lumberyards to coordinate a plan of action regarding business hours and safety measures. The industry is not only well-connected, but in these cases, well-coordinated and willing to look beyond competition during challenging times.

Sometimes the connections are farther away than the competing lumberyard in the next town. On page 50, you’ll find the story of Teddy Bryant from Teddy’s Building Supply in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Teddy has spent a good number of years answering phone calls from builders who are looking for specific products. In fact, he’s built a reputation for being the guy who either stocks or can track down most hard-to-find materials. Until the pandemic, however, he hadn’t received a call from a builder willing to drive more than 600 miles for a load of treated lumber. But, due to a couple of mutual connections, that’s what happened when a Chicago-area builder couldn’t find the treated lumber he needed in his market.

As I ease into the Editor’s chair here at LBM Journal, I’m grateful for the connections I’ve made in this industry. I strive to continue to  tell their stories, and hopefully connect more LBM dealers together in the process. If you have a story to share, or something you think other dealers would connect with, please reach out. This truly is a closely-knit community that benefits from shared stories.

– James Anderson, Editor

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