Richard Green, general manager at Spenard Builders Supply in Fairbanks, Ala.
Ronn Murray Richard Green, general manager at Spenard Builders Supply in Fairbanks, Ala.

Alaska can seem like a different planet. It takes a special kind of person to endure the sub-zero temperatures and the around-the-clock winter darkness. Richard Green, general manager of ProBuild-owned Spenard Builders Supply, has worked in these conditions for decades.

Seasonal sales We’re flat in December, January, and February, and we start picking up again in March. June, July, August, and September are our prime months.

Layoffs? If we were to cut our force down to the amount of work we’re currently doing, we wouldn’t have anybody come spring. You just can’t do a seasonal staff here. We’ve got employees who’ve been with us for 20, 30 years.

Busy bodies We have an embedded mill shop here, so we’re making doors and windows year-round. When it gets cold enough, people’s pipes freeze up and they’ve got to tear them apart. We sell them Sheetrock to help them replace the damage.

Winter work The goal of [builders] here is to try and get closed in before the wintertime. They get the house framed up so they can hold heat in some fashion. They’ll do that to two or three houses so they have something to work on throughout the winter. 

Supply line When it’s cost-effective, we get our lumber and commodity items [delivered] by rail. It’s barged up from Seattle, then it gets to Anchorage. Then it’s trucked up here or [railed] here. We had some bad weather along the coast recently, and it held up the last barge of the year for several days.

Way of life I’m always uneasy about hiring somebody who hasn’t spent a winter here. There’s a lot that goes into just getting to work. The cost of a vehicle and the cost of living here is not easy.