Price leads Ridgefield Supply into new era
Photos by Kathy Russell Photography
I REALIZED VERY QUICKLY AFTER COLLEGE THAT I DIDN’T LIKE THE CONCEPT OF WORKING FOR SOMEBODY ELSE. THE OPPORTUNITY HERE TO CARRY ON THE FAMILY TRADITION WAS HUGE— TO BE INVOLVED IN AN AWESOME INDUSTRY, WHERE A HANDSHAKE IS STILL A HANDSHAKE. – MARGARET PRICE
A remodel can have great impact on a company. In the case of Ridgefield Supply, it impacted a community. When Margaret Price came back home to take over her father, Lou Price’s, lumberyard in Ridgefield, Conn., she knew that a remodeled and redesigned facility would be necessary to carry on the company’s success. “It was your typical third-generation lumberyard,” she explains. “There had not been much investment into the property and it was under-performing because it wasn’t the best use of the facilities.”
Price returned to the family business in 2000, and officially acquired the company from her father in 2011. Before she did, Price and her father began the process of planning the remodel.
The facility remodel was an investment in the future that took place over the course of three years from May 2014 to September 2017. Including 11 new buildings, the company now stores 90% of its materials under cover. The office building is now state-of-the-art, and the entire company has a renewed focus on material handling, safety, and efficiency.
Price says her father would be proud. He passed away in February 2014, and was not able to see the remodel to completion. His last time out of the house was to hear the planning and zoning approval that allowed the remodeling to take place.
Now, among the company’s 11 newly-remodeled buildings on five acres, stands an 1840s train station that was faithfully restored from its original design.
“It’s something we’re very proud of,” Price says. “It’s a showcase. We even set railroad tracks down. Every building that is visible from the street shows our product in some way or another. Also, the way it is designed, you can’t see from the outside that it is a lumberyard.”
From the community’s perspective, Ridgefield Supply’s remodel helped spawn a revitalization of Prospect Street. What once housed a rundown library and movie theater now hosts more destination businesses.
“In the past seven years, the library, movie theater, Ridgefield Supply, and a restaurant have been redone,” Price says. “It’s a beautiful area where people want to come now.”
As an only child growing up in a lumberyard family, Price says she didn’t think much about one day owning her father’s company. Yet after graduating Wheaton College with degrees in political science and international relations, she found herself back home taking on the challenge of transforming the family business.
“I realized very quickly after college that I didn’t like the concept of working for somebody else,” she says. “The opportunity here to carry on the family tradition was huge—to be involved in an awesome industry, where a handshake is still a handshake.”
Since then, Price has been carrying on a tradition that her family has been involved in since 1933, in a business that was originally founded in 1883.
After losing her father, Price says, one of the things that helped her move past the loss was her love of horses. She returned to competitive show jumping and working with young horses after a 16-year hiatus.
“It has really grounded me mentally and helped me physically and it has brought so much joy to my life.”
Price says that throughout her childhood, her involvement in equestrian sports had provided her the confidence that she would later use to help grow her family’s business. In equestrian sports, men and women compete as equals.
“I grew up competing, nationally and internationally, as equal to men. It certainly gave me more of a backbone.”
With the remodel, Price expects her company will still serve a mix of 80% contractor and 20% retail customers, though she predicts both sides of the business will increase as the company realizes new operational efficiencies. Already, paint sales are up 42%, Price says. Hardware sales are up 51% as well, all since April.
To lead her company into the next generation of growth, Price still relies on the practices her father and grandfather instilled in the business since her grandfather acquired Ridgefield Supply in 1933.
Today, those business practices still carry the family name in the Louis H. Price Education Center. The second floor of the company’s main office building now serves as an education center, with technology and seating for 50 people. The space is used for staff education and training as well as architect and contractor meetings.
The Louis H. Price Education center empowers the Ridgefield Supply team’s 47 employees to focus on product and building information that has enabled the team to offer advice to customers on everything from design to tool selection.
The education center is open to the community as well, free of charge, and is used for meetings and blood drives. Since every aspect of the building is also a showroom, Price says she welcomes the opportunity for potential customers to see what Ridgefield Supply has to offer.
Another aspect of the education center and the remodel as a whole is that it allows Price to attract a younger employee base to the company.
“A lot of these big organizations like Google and Apple and the tech companies have created these dream workspaces for the younger generation,” she says. “Mom and pop stores and other industries have a hard time competing with this, but we’ve been able to create that space that is comfortable and allows for creativity.”
As with many in the industry, Price sees the hiring of millennial talent as an obstacle in the future. Particularly in Connecticut, she says, it seems as though people under the age of 40 aren’t staying around for work.
“It’s one thing to look at macroeconomics and the state of the company, but the micro in the state of Connecticut shows us a mass exodus of young talent,” she says. “Now that we have the opportunity to cultivate young talent, we’ll run with it. I think I have one of the youngest teams.”
Company President Glen Albee often jokes that he’s the old guy of the group, Price says, and “he’s not that old.”
At the vice president level, everyone is in their late 30s, and early 40s. Price, herself, just turned 40 recently.
“We’ve created an environment where people want to work,” she says. “We have an employee here who left another lumberyard after 42 years there to be a part of what we have. His knowledge and experience is invaluable.”
Price and company use a Best Places to Work study to gain insight into how the company can best serve employees.
“It’s not something we market to the world. President Glen Albee and I use it as a tool to listen to our employees who may not be comfortable talking in a public forum. We get 100% participation, and that’s very valuable to us.”
With the remodel and grand opening now behind them, Price and the staff at Ridgefield Supply will focus on networking in 2018, she says.
“We try to bring people together in the right way. We are not an industry where everybody is on social media. We try to be a solution-finder for our customer base and for potential customers.”
Networking has led to great connections in the industry and has helped Ridgefield Supply be more competitive as well through market research studies.
“Not only are we able to listen to contractors, but also homeowners. With a new retail store, that is very important to us,” Price says. “Back in the day, we were known as ‘the Tiffany’ of lumberyards because of our pricing. We’re not anymore. We truly keep people from going to the box stores.”
As with many businesses, Price says she keeps her company focused on the future, and how online retail and digital marketing has the potential to transform the industry.
“Our footprint is substantially larger now because of technology,” she says. “And because of that footprint, we’re not afraid to go after the big guys.”