This is so not your grandfather’s lumberyard. At Tum-A-Lum Lumber’s Hood River location, a redesign of the facility brought clarity inside and out, with floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the building with light and bring in the stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge.

The choice was a nod to retail establishments, which have long used expanses of glass to showcase their wares and lure potential customers inside. That type of glazing is almost unheard of in lumberyards, where the use of glass is more often restricted to an industrial door with smudged panels that afford little insight into what lies beyond.

Renee Coffman and Dave Dittmer worked together to create Tum-A-Lum’s refreshed brand and noteworthy new design.
Grant Mott Renee Coffman and Dave Dittmer worked together to create Tum-A-Lum’s refreshed brand and noteworthy new design.

The nod to retail was not by chance. Of Tum-A-Lum’s three locations (the others are in Pendleton and The Dalles, Ore.), Hood River has the most retail traffic, and CEO Dave Dittmer would like to encourage more. “We are not trying to de-emphasize the contractor base (currently the yard makes 55% of its sales to pros) but expand the retail base.”

Over time, Hood River, located at the confluence of the Hood and Columbia rivers and surrounded by the basalt cliffs of the 80-mile-long Columbia River Gorge, has become a real draw for sports-loving tourists and those seeking second homes, and Tum-A-Lum executives wanted draw in these new customers. Dittmer and Renee Coffman, Tum-A-Lum’s consumer business development manager, felt a more retail-friendly environment would go a long way toward doing so, especially for female customers.

To bring in views of the river and mountains, Dittmer gave up a whole retail wall, a design choice that would not even have occurred to him had not his architect, Brett Baba, of the Seattle firm Graham Baba, broached the idea. There was some initial hesitation, but then the idea took hold. He’s never regretted the decision. “You have now invited the public into the facility,” he says. “When you are standing inside looking out, you are looking into the gorge. It’s a beautiful view.”

The expansive windows provided both opportunities and challenges for Coffman. By locating the design center up front, where products and room vignettes are illuminated by natural light, “people can really picture this stuff in their homes.” At the same time, “when you design a store with retail product you have to be careful where you place items. Products and signage can fade in the sun.” The sun became a pivotal factor in the layout.

courtesy of Tum-a-Lum

The use of glazing in the remodel was not limited to the exterior wall. A wall of clerestory windows floods the interior showroom with light. Coffman believes the modernized lumberyard, with lots of windows and an easy-to-navigate interior, will attract more female customers, who can sometimes be intimidated by traditional lumberyards. “Anybody would feel comfortable pulling up to it,” she says.

The Hood River facility was, for many years, the de facto headquarters of Tum-A-Lum (a Native American term from the Umatilla people meaning “spreading waters”). The lumberyard has been a fixture in the Pacific Northwest for over 100 years. By 2016, the antiquated 1980 building at Hood River, which has been the site of a Tum-A-Lum yard since 1922, was in sore need of a redesign. “We needed additional retail square footage and a brand refreshening,” Dittmer says. “We also wanted to establish a brand identity for the new people coming into our community.”

The brand refresh included an expanded color palette, which kept the red that had long been part of the company’s design but added gray and black. The resulting palette, spread throughout the retail store and showroom, provides a cohesive and sophisticated look without alienating traditional customers.

Everything was scrutinized and tweaked, from the signage to the look of the vehicles, Coffman says. She handled the color palette both inside and out, the layout of the interior, and the product lines that went into the store.

The remodel, which took six months and was finished this past June, doubled the size of the interior, expanding it to almost 10,000 square feet. Dittmer and Coffman used 85% of architect Brett Baba’s original plan for the space, which Coffman worked with to achieve the final design. The biggest change from Baba’s design was the entrance, which Dittmer and Coffman wanted to enhance in order to make a statement. “We needed to define the entrance, because there was so much glass there,” Dittmer says.

The bumped-out square facade, clad in red Hardie board and rising 6 feet above the roofline, does just that. And the building’s exterior effectively showcases products the yard sells, including Milgard windows, bamboo columns, and James Hardie Reveal siding.

The redesign also called for removing the old acoustic ceiling lines and creating a free-span space with no interior support columns, further enhancing the store’s bright, airy feel. LED lights were used throughout, and vinyl tiles were replaced with polished concrete.

Tum-a-Lum Lumber won an Excellence Award: Facility Design in 2016. Note how neat and organized its new facility is.
courtesy of Tum-a-Lum Tum-a-Lum Lumber won an Excellence Award: Facility Design in 2016. Note how neat and organized its new facility is.

Business went on as usual during the six-month remodel, testing the patience of employees and customers, says Dittmer. “There would be a product on one gondola one day, and on another gondola the next day.” When asbestos was found in the old floor tiles, Dittmer and Coffman had to move the store into one-quarter of the space—in four days. “We did not close and the team did not complain,” says Coffman with pride.

“From my perspective, the most harrowing thing was the first day when you start tearing up the inside. Then you have this mental process—‘oh my god, all this stuff is going to change,’” Dittmer says. His most rewarding moment of the process came during contractor night, an event held just prior to the grand offering to give the yard’s contractor customers and vendors a sneak peek at the remodel. “As people walked in, we heard ‘Wow!’ time and time again.”

The store now features a full color-match paint center and an expanded design showroom with windows, doors, cabinets, and countertops, along with dedicated sales personnel for these products. In addition to the new displays, new lines have been added to the mix of products offered to customers. The plumbing, electrical, hardware, and tool departments also have been expanded.

The remodel included an additional 140-foot by 16-foot span of cantilevered racking that made pickups easier for customers and increased the efficiency of yard operations. Relocating the receiving room made it simpler to receive and stock merchandise, and adding new parking spaces made it more convenient for customers.

Thanks to the remodel’s success, Dittmer is now making plans to incorporate elements of the brand refresh at the other Tum-A-Lum locations.

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