Rick Lierz, owner Franklin Building Supply
Rick Lierz, owner Franklin Building Supply

Which two factors most distinguish an established LBM operation from a start-up? Location and brand name. In some places, the location is more permanent than the name above the door. At others, the name matters so much that new building material dealers have kept the company's original name even though its founders left decades ago.

Franklin Building Supply has both assets in spades. It has been serving Idaho's Treasure Valley for 33 years, and its steady, creative use of marketing has made it a household name among contractors and retail customers alike. Thus, when Franklin began planning the creation of a showroom for the Boise area six years ago, its first thought was to convert a former truss plant next to its main lumberyard and put a big Franklin sign out front.

Then Franklin owner Rick Lierz and Patti Frasier, the woman tabbed to manage the showroom, took a hard look at those assets as well as at what other dealers had done. Their conclusions led to the creation of Design Innovations by Franklin Building Supply, a showroom that's located not inside Franklin's largest facility, but rather in a business park a mile away.

Now, instead of being stuffed into a dusty corrugated metal building that Lierz describes as "a lovely shade of greenish yellow," Design Innovations occupies a custom-built, 20,000-square-foot, professionally designed property that showcases cabinetry, floor coverings, countertops, doors, trim, window blinds, closet systems, shower doors, and windows. There also is space for a warehouse and operations. It's such an inviting place that Frasier says she and her staff have trouble keeping people long enough at the entrance's concierge desk to greet them and assess their needs–they're already off exploring. One result is that Franklin's $4 million investment has helped it increase sales to the higher-spending custom home crowd even as it kept hold on its traditional small-builder customer base.