What better way to start a summer column than with a line from a Jimmy Buffett song. Near the end of “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” Buffett sings, “Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I’ve found my occupational hazard being my occupation’s just not around.”

I’ve felt that way myself over the years as a journalist in a news business that’s seen more economic downturns than upswings. More than a few times, a publisher I worked for called it quits and tossed me and my colleagues out on the street.

Still having bills to pay—even when my chosen occupation heads south—I did what only seemed natural: picked up a hammer and saw, or paintbrush and nail gun, and hustled work as a handyman and home remodeler. My stepfather was a carpenter who worked for a builder in Northern Virginia for most of my life. I helped him when he added a garage to our family’s first home and a two-bedroom addition to another.

As a kid, I helped dig footers, lay block, frame walls, hang drywall, and roof. Even spent a summer in high school working in a truss factory—that is, until my brother and buddies and I decided we wanted to go to the beach for a week. The boss wouldn’t give us the time off, so we quit the job and drove to Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Years later, my wife and I bought our first house in Pittsburgh, a vacant, vandalized three-story Victorian and spent the next five years remodeling it. Think of Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in The Money Pit. Along the way, I went to college and started a career in the news business. Each time economic fortunes left me jobless, I swapped a white collar for a blue one. I even ran my own remodeling business, an extremely rewarding and, at times, frustrating endeavor.

That’s a long way of saying that while I’m new to ProSales and the LBM industry, I know my way around a lumberyard. I’ve shopped big box stores and traditional dealers, buying cabinets and countertops, flooring and shingles, OSB, paint, and 2x4s. I worked at Home Depot for a spell as a paint department supervisor and a flooring sales associate, so I know the retail end of the business as well. (And no, the customer isn’t always right, but we find tactful ways of working around their confusion, don’t we?)

In the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of you in this dynamic industry, even toured an OSB mill. (I love factories, worked in one for a time, but that’s a story for another day.)

I look forward in the coming months to traveling to your neck of the woods, meeting you, and talking about your business and concerns. Send me an email or give a call anytime; I’d love to hear from you.

Steve Campbell