Bryan Hutchison
Jason Grubb / Bryan Hutchison

I was born into the LBM business, and for the first 30 years of my life the only paychecks I ever got came from pro dealers. But this spring, true to the name of this column, my life entered a New Dimension when I became manager of Habitat for Humanity's Blue Spruce ReStore resale outlet in Evergreen, Colo.

It's great work, and not all that far removed from my old life as president of Hutchison Lumber. I'm still surrounded by people who are full of vitality, but before they were associates and distributors while now they're volunteers.

On the other hand, I've learned a few things here that I wish I had known when I was running the company. One big lesson I've learned is how to adapt to constant change. You can forget Just in Time inventory management here; donations come when they will, and demand goes up and down as fast as a Colorado thermometer.

Another thing I wish I did more of throughout my career was to say thank you. Looking back, I often took for granted our associates. Of course we would give them bonuses, gifts, and tickets to events, but in retrospect I wish

I had focused more on showing them my appreciation in words, both verbally and written. Each week at Habitat, we work to say thanks.

A third thing I wished I had known then was that places like ReStores exist, because they can help dealers in many ways.

ReStores take donations of reusable and surplus building materials and sell them at a fraction of the retail price. The proceeds help local Habitat affiliates fund the construction of Habitat homes within their communities. While every ReStore resale outlet is a little different, most focus on home improvement goods like furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances.

You may be wondering how donating to a ReStore can help your bottom line. First, you can get a valuable tax deduction for your donations of surplus, misordered, and returned items–goods that are always a pain to sell at a discount and that, when they're in a half-price bargain bin, make your store look like a clearance outlet. In addition, all dealers struggle with keeping inventory fresh and quickly turned, so getting rid of the stuff you can't sell makes it easier for you to concentrate on the goods that will.

ReStore resale outlets provide an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep good, reusable materials out of the waste stream. If your company pays tipping fees or is in a town with waste management issues, this can be a big plus.

But I've found there is another important benefit for you: Helping your community's citizens live in better houses. Proceeds from ReStore are used to build new homes in partnership with families in need of housing. Our Habitat affiliate has just begun to start building another house–we build two or three every year–and it has been exciting to see the progress.

Your contribution pays off in the satisfaction of helping Habitat as well as in the community support that comes from customers who appreciate businesses that help Habitat in its mission.

Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden once said, "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." As an LBM dealer, you do a great job supplying your community with building materials, but building houses and handling hiccups in the supply chain aren't your specialties. Habitat for Humanity's ReStore specializes in those issues, and with your help as a dealer we can make a great team.

I miss you folks. But there are great reasons why we should keep in touch. Thanks.

Bryan Hutchison was president of Hutchison Lumber in Pine, Colo., and in 2009 served as president of the Mountain States Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. For more on ReStores, contact Drew Meyer at [email protected].