Hazlehurst native Robert Johnson is hailed as one of rhythm and blues' most influential early artists because he was a great guitarist, songwriter, and singer. David Huntington is a triple threat as well: Aside from running a building supply company with his brother, Huntington also builds homes, and in past years he has sat on a local bank's board helping review construction loans. But unlike Johnson, Huntington didn't have to make a pact with the devil to achieve success. Here's how he and his brother John stay a beat ahead.
Seasonal Factors We have seasonal changes but not big swings. January and February are wet, cold months in this part of the South. You can cry the blues all you want and year after year, the trend is about the same. The year before last we had a tremendous deep freeze, and sales went up because of plumbing items.
I look at sales, the balance sheet, the bank account and compare them to where we were last year, if we're maintaining our margins. I don't really care if we're that much ahead in revenue.
We recognized we weren't satisfying all the needs for hardlines. So last year, we began moving into a new 15,000-square-foot retail store. We anticipate our sales will more than double; revenue last year was $3.5 million. We knew people were coming here for a project. If they needed seven items, we couldn't fill that, so they had to drive 20 miles to a Home Depot or up to Jackson. Now, if there's any kind of project, we'll have it.
We ended up contracting the building with a construction firm out of Atlanta that beat all the local people. As for banks, money was incredibly cheap. We had good banking relationships. I ended up splitting the loans with two institutions. We've been profitable since I've been here–30-some years.
What Being a Builder Taught Me About LBM
If you don't have the material there ahead of time, your subs get ahead of you. So we make sure we get the framing package to the job sites in a timely fashion.
Hurricane Katrina's Legacy
Everybody got a new roof. And a lot of government money has poured in for shelters, government-subsidized housing. A lot of people who came here aren't going back. Katrina created a migration of people from southern Louisiana, particularly from below the levees, that have been through it so many times that they built second homes here as an escape. They're great people. It's hard to understand their language at times, but they bring cash.