Jim Rice can trace his family’s involvement with wood back 10 generations, when his ancestors worked in a timber mill. His great-grandfather Joseph Rice founded Lodi Lumber in 1889, and four generations later, it’s a growing $7 million building materials and millwork company. The family has seen business ebb and flow across the years but has weathered every storm by riding out the waves instead of jumping ship. And Rice’s younger daughter Whitney, who runs the dealer’s social media and marketing, may be the fifth Rice in line to steer the boat.
I’d already been driving trucks since I was 16. I started in ’71. The early ’80s just about killed everything. My dad’s generation was tired. He turned to me and said, “let’s see what you can do.”
Change Is Good
We have some very talented employees. Our mill guys will take on any challenge. We pre-hang all of our own doors, we do custom doors, and we do welded frames. I’ve tried to go after those niches. Same with the mill. You have to change to what the market will bear and what will sustain you.
Little Customers, Big Money
We add a huge value to the small customers—that’s our expertise. The big guys control your receivables, your payables, your inventory. We haven’t fallen into that catch yet. We have a lot of good, small customers that, when collectively put together, add up. They count on us for a wide range of things. We’re the bank a lot of times.
All in the Family
[Whitney is] trying to get more involved with sales, too. We’re all computer illiterate, and she’s gotten us really involved with those things as well. I’ve got 44 years of experience, but there’s still a lot to learn. She’s keeping us in front of that group of customers. I think that will grow.
If you look at a map, we’re in an awfully good area. We’ve got reasonably priced land and our utilities are cheap. To reproduce this today would be tough. In the last 15 years, we’ve probably doubled the number of buildings that we have. —As told to Tim Regan