Evan Jones has been at or near the helm of this single-location lumberyard for most of his life. his father started the yard in 1979 as a sister business to a sawmill and timberland company the family had owned since the late 18th century. But this ninth-generation owner isn’t living in the past. Instead, he’s combining elbow grease and clean energy to compete in a 21st-century market.
As a kid, I sorted nails in the back room and swept up. As I got older, I worked in the yard and behind the counter. I did everything and still do. It’s a small business, and I pride myself on being able to drive all of our vehicles and run every piece of equipment.
Day in the Life
I meet with my sister first thing in the morning. We go over the big-picture plans for our LBM and forest-management businesses, and then I come to the store, check in with my managers, go through my messages and emails. I do some of the commodity purchasing, then I get out on the floor and see customers, visit the yard, and make sure everything’s running smoothly.
“The Five Colleges” (five local colleges) are continually growing and maintaining their campuses, as well as adding faculty who need houses to live in. We bid on university projects such as re-roofing or supplying paint, and we sell set materials to some of their theater departments. It’s a great cycle.
More than two-thirds of our owner, cowls Building Supply, amherst, Mass. Evan Jones customers are small or medium-size contractors— about 10% of them do apartment maintenance or commercial work. The rest is walk-in traffic.
We try not to compete with the big boxes. The Home Depot and Lowe’s entered our market soon after the economy crashed, which caused sales to drop 10% to 20%. We’ve recovered our sales but refocused a few departments in the store and have conceded that we’re not going to be the headquarters for plumbing and electrical supplies.
We’re adding a total of 390 solar panels to the roofs of our two warehouses. The system will produce approximately 120 kilowatts of electricity. Any power we don’t use is fed back into the grid, and we receive a credit from our utility company.
Our bottom line is maintaining a customer base. Not a lot of 20-something kids are coming into the construction business. We have a couple OSRs who work well with the younger crowd—they speak the same language and face the same challenges.
—As told to Hallie Busta