Bless my mom. When I was in high school, my brother asked mom why classmates regarded me?already the hard-charging junior journalist?as such an oddball. Replied my mom: "He's just ahead of his time."

Craig Webb Photo: James Kegley So it is with ProSales. Boyce Thompson, this magazine's first fulltime editor, told me our parent company picked the title ProSales in 1989 because it was considered unusual in that age of retail-oriented home centers for a lumberyard to concentrate on serving professional builders and remodelers. "We were a cult publication," Thompson says.

Today we salute you, the building material dealers and distributors who have helped turn what seemed like a minor business angle into an accepted way of life?so accepted, in fact, that newcomers to the building material world have trouble figuring out why ProSales has that name. This issue salutes the people, products, and events that contributed to the shift.

We suspect you'll regard some choices in our PS20 as blindingly obvious; after all, it's hard to argue about the influence The Home Depot had on dealers around the country. But we think others on the PS20, such as the optimizer, might not have been on your shortlist but indeed were powerful influences on LBM. They also deserve consideration.

There's a tendency in our business to regard homebuilding and construction materials as change-averse. But in fact, building materials and the people who sell them change constantly. ProBuild was stitched together from more than 50 dealers acquired or created just in the past decade. Stock Building Supply bolted on more than 60 companies as it rose to the top of the ProSales 100. Meanwhile, what's in the products you sell have changed dramatically.

One benefit of compiling a top 20 list is that it teaches you humility. In retrospect, some of the things that we thought would matter never did. In other cases, the jury is still out; a while back, I found a cover story that ProSales did on the rise of green building products. We wrote it in 1993.

But being wrong about the future doesn't mean you shouldn't keep trying to look ahead, even if unsettled conditions have shortened your horizon. To that end, we have invited another former ProSales editor, Greg Brooks, to give us his view of what's to come. We also know that, even if you can't predict your store's fate in 2029, you can at least tack from point to point as the day's conditions dictate.

ProSales has tried to help you steer your ship by changing what we write about and how we deliver it. We've morphed from a once-a-month visitor to a service that provides news and wisdom on a daily, even hourly, basis. Besides print, we deliver information via e-mail, the Internet, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Other magazine editors have struggled with this change, but we haven't. That's because long ago, before this magazine was born, I spent the first 10 years of my working life at the UPI wire service, pushing out news simultaneously to radio, TV, and morning and afternoon newspapers. It was perfect training for now.

I guess I really was ahead of my time. Just as you are in building materials today.

Craig Webb, editor