John Kozeliski is the owner of Bubany Lumber Co., located in Gallup, N.M.
Bubany Lumber Company: Not Broken and Doesn’t Need Fixing By Clare Adrian
Gallup, N.M.—The desert tranquility of Gallup, N.M., contrasts with its growing industrial commerce, as does the lumber company at 111 North Third contrast with the Home Depot that opened in town in 2005. A newspaper columnist predicted Bubany Lumber Co., among other independents of the area, would fold when the big box opened its doors, but owner John Kozeliski chuckled softly at the ability of his company to dissolve the dire predictions.
“Walk-in trade went down a little, but we’re doing fine,” said Kozeliski. Bubany’s niche is serving commercial builders. “No pots and pans here,” said Kozeliski.
Much of the business Bubany does centers around the Navaho and Zuni tribe organizations of the area. The mix of businesses served are the government, schools, public housing, commercial accounts, contractors and just a small percentage of walk-ins. Kozeliski refers to his company as “the small kid on the block.” Yet from his desk that occupies a cramped corner at the front of the store behind a glass partition no bigger than his desk, Kozeliski orders an average of 25,000 board feet of SPF per month. In order to supply his customers with their needs, he relies mostly on lumber wholesalers, such as Boise Cascade, Sagebrush Sales and Blue Linx.
It’s all about service, service, service, said Kozeliski. “If a contractor calls needing 10 2x4s, we try to have it there withi
A large storage unit keeps lumber out of the elements.
n 15 to 20 minutes from the time we get the call so he doesn’t have carpenters standing around. We get a lot of their business because they know they won’t have to wait three or four hours.”
When a customer walks into the store, Robert Thomas, a salesman at the company for 25 years, is right there at the front door ready to help.
“It all comes back to service,” said Kozeliski. “I run the business the old-fashioned way, as I learned it 45 years ago, and it works. Most wouldn’t believe we could operate the way we do.”
The old-fashioned way all started with Bubany himself, who arrived in Gallup from Yugoslavia in the 1910s with a cousin and $5 in his pocket to mine coal and eventually become one of the main movers and shakers of Gallup. Not only did he start the Bubany Lumber Co., but Bubany ended up owning half of the town, said Kozeliski, his other ventures included Merchants Bank, Bubany Insurance and Bubany Sand and Gravel. He was a doer not a talker, which was evident after having cut off four fingers on one hand while working in the lumber trade early on. Kozeliski bo
The retail section of Bubany contains smaller items for carryouts.
ught the company, along with his father, who had been with Bubany for 60 years. John started out 45 years ago with the company and as current owner, is continuing practices that have bode well for the company over the years.
Except for accounts receivable, the company is not computerized. Payroll is done manually, as is inventory. If need be, emails are directed to John’s wife, Judy, at the couple’s home. She prints them out and brings them over. Kozeliski teases merchants that call on him suggesting computerization. He turns them down and banters, “we’re thinking about getting a fax,” the transmission machine to which he has made the leap.
One change Kozeliski did make was to eliminate office space. Bubany had an office in back with a desk and a couch where he brought people in to talk. John likes to be where he can see things.
“If we need to say something important and don’t want anyone else to hear, we go in the vault. And if someone wants to ask a question, I’m right here.”
Kozeliski’s presence out in the front of the store positions him accessibly to his buyers, Chad, and son, Steve, w
The warehouse at the company holds paneling, windows, doors and other items after they are unloaded.
ho came to work for his dad for a summer and has stayed 19 years.
“Steve is the backbone of the company and is very good with customers,” said Kozeliski. As general manager, Steve buys paint and cinderblock for the company, and Chad buys hardware, tools, plumbing and electrical.
Kozeliski informs people he hires of another commonplace practice of the company, which is everyone, including Kozeliski, does everything. He might be found outside unloading a truck from a forklift. Salesclerks unload and stock lumber and plywood. If someone sells cement, he loads it too, to make sure the order is accurate.
“We’re here before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m., with no lunch hour. That’s how crazy we are,” mused Kozeliski.
He maintains a comfortable work atmosphere, which has resulted in light turnover. Five of the current 13 employees have been with the company for more than 20 years. Robert Thomas or “Clop” as he’s called, has been there that long, in sales, while generally “clopping around.”
The physical layout of the business hasn’t changed either, said Kozeliski, since it was rebuilt in 1950 following a fire that burned the mostly wooden building to the ground in 1949.
Bubany Lumber Co. serves various businesses, including contractors, commercial accounts and walk-ins.
“They had to quit putting water on it after two days because the town was running out of water.” said Kozeliski.
The same year it was rebuilt, Bubany received an award for lumberyard design. The company’s 3-acre plot stretches across 3rd Street to the south and Maxwell to the west. A warehouse attaches to the main office building, and along with several storage sheds, stands a long 550-foot storage building that wraps from the west around the back of the yard to the south.
Kozeliski delivers lumber to the same satisfied customers using four trucks, one Chevy and three GMC flatbeds, sometimes two to three times in the same day, if needed.
“Contractors expect it fast from us,” said Kozeliski. Bubany dependability has attracted business beyond the usual 60-mile radius, up to 100 miles out.
A consultant dropped by, suggesting she analyze the entire business, what Kozeliski was doing wrong, and making things easier.
“But we’ve done it this way so long, we wouldn’t know how to change. She would laugh when getting s
Steve, Kozeliski’s son, has been working side-by-side with his father at the operation for almost 20 years.
tarted, walk out the door, say we couldn’t operate the way we are operating,” commented Kozeliski, reaching for a paper from a board that is supported by a filing cabinet at one end and a garage door spring standing vertically, at the other.