Metro Miami was 175 times smaller than it is today when Shell Lumber opened for business in 1928. And, like Florida’s senior citizens, Shell is pretty spry for its age and unafraid of being different. It might be the only place in America where you can buy lumber in the morning and watch a Shakespearean drama at night. For Andy Haase, it’s all about being local in a global city that packs 11,000 people per square mile.
My Career Arc I started with the company in 1997 as a salesman on the floor. I was finishing my master’s degree in English Literature, which is a nowhere, dead-end job. I was quickly promoted and really loved the lumber business. It took me two years and I became president of the company and then bought in shortly after that.
Downturn’s Upside We didn’t grow as much during that little boom as everyone else, so we didn’t come down as much, either. The independents are going to make a comeback as people value the service and care, especially in urban areas.
Locally Famous There’s a Home Depot six blocks one way and a mile and a half the other way. We’re what you would call a baby box. We don’t spend a lot of money on conventional advertising but are big into word of mouth and being the local guys.
Dealing With Hurricanes Storms aren’t as big as they were a decade ago. We don’t factor it into our plans. We do have a huge generator so that we’re here for the locals. One thing we do very well is we have stuff and we open up 24 hours a day. It’s a mad scene usually, but I don’t really hope for it or wish for it. I’d rather sell moldings and hardwood panels than stuff like that any day.
All the Yard’s a Stage It’s after hours for us, so they can come do Shakespeare. We also do concerts and fundraisers, if it’s a cause we like. [Ours is] a nice big facility with a big parking lot; we can fit about 300 people. It hasn’t translated into sales, but I think it translates to our big-picture community involvement.
My Yardsticks We measure our business by transaction. We have more than 1,200 each day—large and small, and obviously that’s changed with the economy. As long as the footsteps are still coming to the door, we’re doing a good job.