Softwood Forest Products Buyer


Feature Story


Atlas Lumber Prides Itself On Being A Partner
By Bridget McCrea

Atlas Lumber Co.’s headquarters sits on five acres of land and has a 40,000-square-foot plant in Chino, Calif.
Chino, Calif.—Quality comes first at Atlas Lumber Co., where product consistency and customer needs are never compromised.

“We try to deliver value,” said Roger Nelson, sales manager for the Chino, Calif.-based manufacturer. “Sometimes we can deliver at the lowest price, but at other times we feel that the customer’s needs dictate a product that is not the cheapest out there. Clear communication between our customers and our reps is the key, and quality is never sacrificed.”

Atlas Lumber has been operating on that “quality first” philosophy since the company was founded in 1944. Headed up by Randy Porter, president; Chris Porter, chief financial officer; and Steve Ondich, vice president of sales and marketing, the 50-employee company makes and delivers custom parts and lumber to many different industries.

Situated on five acres of land, Atlas Lumber has a 40,000-square-foot plant and stocks about 2 million board feet of Softwood lumber as well as domestic hardwoods and sheet goods. Key Softwood species include Cypress, Douglas Fir, Eastern White Pine, Hem-Fir, Hemlock, Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Radiata Pine, Sugar Pine, Western Red Cedar and White Fir. Most of the lumber comes from sawmills in the Northwest, Northeast and Canada.

In keeping with their mission to provide top quality products, Nelson said Atlas Lumber’s buyers pay close attention to the quality of the wood that they’re buying.

“We’ve developed strong relationships with key mills that produce very high-quality lumber,” he explained.

Upon arrival at Atlas Lumber, incoming lumber from those sawmills is first inspected to assure the lumber meets the appropriate standard as required. Orders are then pulled to meet the specific needs of each order, and stock is sent to each milling station required to fulfill the customer’s order. The lumber and/or component is then inspected for accuracy during the milling process, and the custom part is packaged and sent to the company’s fleet of trucks for delivery.

Founded by the current owners’ grandfather 62 years ago, Atlas Lumber got its start in Los Angeles, Calif., as a distribution yard for hardwood lumber grown in the Eastern United States. According to Nelson, the company’s strength lay in its ability to
The firm uses its company fleet of trucks for deliveries.
forge strong relationships with the highest quality hardwood lumber mills, and then to service lumber users in the West.

After graduating from college, Randy Porter joined the company in 1980, and later purchased it from his grandfather. Armed with a background in corporate finance, Chris Porter joined his brother in running the family business. As the company grew, new products such as high-grade Softwoods from the Northwest, imported hardwoods and panel products, and new services like on-site finish milling and delivery, were added. In 1987, Atlas Lumber relocated to Chino in order to better serve the expanding southern California market.

Recognizing an evolving market, Atlas Lumber diversified in 1996 by adding custom part manufacturing capabilities and, later, a milling facility.

“As the business grew, it changed from just wholesaling lumber to actually handling the milling, and the manufacture of component parts,” Nelson said. “Today, we have a full-finish mill where we produce specific component parts that we stock and deliver to other manufacturers on a just-in-time basis.”

For Atlas Lumber, the additional revenue stream couldn’t have come at a better time. Having watched its domestic base of furniture manufacturing-clients dwindle over the last 10 years, the company has had to find new ways to generate business.

“When I got here 10 years ago, it was furniture, furniture, furniture,” recalled Nelson. “That industry has since died out here in southern California, and we’ve had to find new ways to generate business and stay alive. We’ve done it by going from a heavy wholesale mix, to a largely manufacturing mix.”

Being able to quickly customize such orders to meet client demands—particularly when it comes to component parts—has helped Atlas Lumber fulfill a need that its customers previously had to handle on their own.

“In order to meet those needs without high equipment expenses, manufacturers are out looking for component parts,” said Nelson. “That’s a major shift from a few years ago, when they handled most of that in-house.”

With eight full-time salespeople who operate from its Chino location, Atlas Lumber serves a geographically broad customer base that stretches from Texas to California to Vermont, but that is concentrated mostly in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Mexico. Key customer groups include cabinet manufacturers, flooring contractors and producers of doors, windows and sashes.

The company stocks 2 million board feet of Softwood and hardwood lumber combined.
A member of the Los Angeles Hardwood Lumbermen’s Club, Atlas Lumber opened a will-call center in 2005, and in doing so created a way to interact more personally with its customers. Featuring a full line of mouldings, which customers can touch and feel before ordering, the center caters to small shops and do-it-yourselfers who prefer to make their purchases in person, rather than over the phone.
Over the next two to three years, Nelson said Atlas Lumber will introduce new manufactured products. Realizing that the company is not just a wholesaler, but also a manufacturer that assists customers on many different fronts, Nelson said he sees “a bright future ahead for the diverse, quality-oriented manufacturer.”



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