Nicole Liby, co-owner, Clay County Lumber
Jason Dailey Nicole Liby, co-owner, Clay County Lumber

As OB coordinator for the Clay County Medical Center, and a mother of three daughters (ages 8, 7, and 4), Nicole Liby had plenty on her plate already when her dad, Vernon McGee, asked for her help in his new venture: opening a lumberyard in downtown Clay Center, Kan. The new yard occupies the site of the former Fullington Lumber on courthouse square, which shuttered its business more than 10 years ago.

Roped In
I used to help my dad with the books in his roofing business [McGee Roofing], and I was cleanup crew for the roofing crew growing up, so when he asked for my help, I said of course. My father is an entrepreneur; he always has big plans. I’m like my father in that, and I think that’s why he wanted me on board.

We do anything for our parents, right? When I went to school, I had no intention of being involved in the family business, but I married a man who I think my parents love more than me, and he’s a salesman with the roofing business, and that kept me here. My dad tells everyone that he did this to ensure his granddaughters’ futures. I think he would have us all living in his backyard if he could.

Learning the Biz
At first it was much more than I anticipated, and I had to learn the lingo and all the products. What is this siding product? What type of board is this? And SPF; what’s that? Learning all that, that was the hardest, plus I had to juggle my responsibilities. I’m an RN, and I still do that part time. I spend two days a week at the medical center. But I have caught on quickly. The books weren’t new to me, and Michael [Clark, store manager] is a huge help. He does the planning and ordering. If he gets mad, he never shows it.

We have eight employees, two of them former employees of Fullington’s. We have also had younger guys who used to work at Fullington’s when they were in high school come in and say, ‘Man, I miss this place.’

Finding the Fun
People are settling in. We have a new computer system, and we’re getting the employees trained and comfortable. I’m here usually three days a week, but I put in a lot of hours on the computer after the girls are asleep, working on marketing and accounting. As OB coordinator at the medical center, I have had to do a little bit of marketing, so I’m trying to build on that knowledge here.

I am managing much better now than at first, when I kept thinking, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ Now the chaos is more organized. It’s getting to be fun now.

October 17th was our soft opening and December the grand opening. We have 6,000 to 7,000 square feet of space here, and we are right downtown across from the courthouse. We had very good feedback even before we opened. Every day someone new comes in.

Alerting the Customers
Here it’s mostly custom builders, remodelers, and DIYers. We also have masonry contractors and carry a line of masonry products for them. We want them to shop local, and keep them in our county. We have been contacting contractors and letting them know we’re here, and finding out what they need so they don’t go out of town. Michael is good at that.

Making Plans
Even before we opened, I had grand plans. We do custom sheds and small buildings, but don’t have a lot of space for building them, so we have plans to take a lot in another area of town for that.

We would like a design center, but we would need more space for that. We say we can get it for you, but if we don’t have it right there, it’s hard. This is a main reason why people go out of town. We do have a small space across the alley in back, with a small shop there, and I have big plans to turn that space into an area for classes for DIYers. Michael looks at me like, ‘You’re crazy.’ Then I told my brain to stop making plans.