History surrounds Jim VanLandingham. He's a lifelong resident of Petersburg, Va., site of some of the longest, fiercest battles in the Civil War. VanLandingham's Builders Supply of Petersburg is located in one of the city's historic districts and has helped renovate many of Petersburg's historic structures. It also has a truss business. Here's what life is like in a town where a 150-year-old past is constantly in the present.
Ranger Jim Being a park ranger down in Hatteras Island, N.C., is what I wanted to do. I was 24. I hadn't heard from the people at Hatteras and I had a friend who was down there and he was saying "You've got to wait." I told him I can't wait, that I've got to get a job. So I come to work here and after about two weeks I get a call from Hatteras Island that I got the job. Well, guess what? I've already got another job. It's funny what path life takes you on.
Living With History The city has done a good job protecting the historic sites that are here. During the nine-month siege of Petersburg, this city was devastated. I mean, it was a Union onslaught into the city of Petersburg and it just destroyed a lot. There's still a lot of inventory that made it through that. Of those buildings, a lot of them have been brought back to life.
Historic Renovation This market we're in right now, there's a lot of renovation and rehab going on. Not on those historical houses, although there is some of that, but there's a lot more renovating of older, historic warehouses; tobacco warehouses and mill warehouses and converting them into apartments. It's private money that's doing it, not government money.
Company History Our lumberyard started in 1903, so that's 108 years now. Over that period of time you are going to be a little bit of everything in this industry. Of late, we have become pretty much a contractor and new home builder supplier.
Love Those Trusses I'm technically minded, meaning that I like figuring things out, and the truss world is all about figuring things out. The old days of the little cookie-cutter, 24-by-40 ranches disappeared years ago. Houses and the roofs are very, very complicated a lot of times. I love that.
Employee Ownership We started buying the former owner out in 1981 through an employee stock option plan and it took us about 13 years to buy the company out completely. People who come [here to work] tend to stay because they get a piece of the pie. Their motivation is to make us successful because they become successful.
My Yardsticks You measure success in longevity. The company has been around for 108 years; obviously, something was successful to do that. I also measure it in profitability because in order for you to survive and continue to have opportunities, you've got to be profitable.