As a member of its Master Builders Association and local remodelers association, Seattle-based Dunn Lumber has always maintained a buzz among Puget Sound remodeling and custom home contractors as a proactive partner in product and installation education. Since its founding in 1907, the now 10-unit pro dealer has a market reputation for a steady annual program of contractor cookouts complete with vendor booths and product demonstrations. So when Windsor, Calif.–based Windsor Mill, a manufacturer of specialty lumber, molding, and millwork, approached Dunn in late 2003 about hosting one of the manufacturer's popular clinics with master carpenter Gary Katz, Dunn jumped at the chance.
“Windsor had only been a vendor of ours for about a year,” says Dunn supervisor of contractor sales Gary LaChance. “We have always offered knowledge through clinics to our contractors, but we've never really had someone focused in one area with a hands-on demonstration like Katz. So we really jumped on this bandwagon to get someone who is a specialist that can show tricks of the trade and an easier and better way to do things.”
Spawned from the success of Gary Katz's Windsor Mill–sponsored carpentry clinics at JLC LIVE!, a regular trade show conducted by THE JOURNAL OF LIGHT CONSTRUCTION, a sister publication of PROSALES, the Katz Road Show was developed as an on-location program for pro dealers to hone carpentry skills, improve efficiency, and consequently increase the bottom line.
“I see our company's job as making our customers money. When they make money, we make money, the builder makes money, and the [end user] is happy,” says Windsor Mill vice president of sales and marketing Craig Flynn of his company's intention to spice up traditional pro dealer contractor events with the Katz program.
Conducted as an almost full-day affair from 9:30 to 3:30, the Katz Road Shows include a catered lunch in addition to instructional programs by Katz that focus on developing complex craft techniques and increasing trim carpentry productivity and efficiency. Sessions include creating period mantelpieces and craftsman-style wainscoting and paneling; trim carpentry tips and tricks of the trade; and installing historic window and door casings and classical crown moldings. To keep costs minimal to pro dealers and free to their contractors, Katz helped bring Mount Prospect, Ill.–based power tool manufacturer Bosch, Cincinnati-based pneumatic tool manufacturer Senco, and Chicago-based level and laser tool manufacturer Stabila on board as co-sponsors of the program. According to Flynn, all four vendors actively seek opportunities through relationships within their dealer networks to stage the road show events.
According to LaChance, the Katz Road Show they hosted in January 2004 more than delivered on the promise to take the pro dealer's contractor event offerings to the next level. “We physically had to kick the contractors out of here because Katz had a plane to catch,” says LaChance, who adds that many of the products featured during the event are now routinely selling out at Dunn locations. “We had over 100 contractors and also offered it to our employees that had time available to come down and watch. People were spellbound.”
Also in attendance and wowed at the event were representatives from Riverhead, N.Y.–based Riverhead Building Supply, an eight-unit pro dealer catering to remodeling and custom home contractors on Long Island and in metro New York City for the past 50 years. According to Riverhead director of marketing Mike Kochanasz, an explosion of traditional-style residential construction in the Hamptons is fueling contractor interest in historic architectural products. “On the surface, it is an expensive proposition to fly five or six guys out to the West Coast and put them up for three days, but in certain cases, that's sometimes what it takes,” says Kochanasz.
As a result of the trip, Riverhead—which also has brought contractors to Katz's clinics at JLC LIVE!—is already signed up for its own Katz Road Show event this fall. In addition, Windsor Mill and its partners have approximately 20 more events in the works for the remainder of 2004, including stops tentatively planned at Anaheim, Calif.–based Ganahl Lumber; Eugene, Ore.–based Jerry's Home Improvement Center; San Diego–based Dixieline Lumber; and Berkeley, Calif.–based Truitt and White.
“The lumberyards that I think will continue to succeed are these guys that are completely stepping back and changing their paradigm,” says Flynn, “and I think that content [like the Katz Road Show] is going to be one of the most valuable assets for a lumberyard to give to their customer moving forward.”