Weldon Hunter and his wife, JoAnn (not pictured), started Hunter Lumber Corp. in Albuquerque, N.M.
Hunter Lumber’s Strong Tradition of Service
By Clare Adrian
Albuquerque, N.M. -- Many of the independents who helped build Albuquerque have yielded to the advent of the home centers. But one privately-owned lumber and hardware store holding its own, consistently supplying customer needs, one order at a time into its 47th year, is Hunter Lumber Corp., on the corner of Menaul and San Pablo Street.
Manager Ken Bower remembers when the store opened in 1959.
“Menaul was just two strips of asphalt, with no curb and gutter.” It was on its way to becoming a boulevard, which today wears the tread on some 65 to 70,000 cars a day. With that kind of exposure and Hunter’s reputation of service, there has been no need to advertise.
“We only advertised one time in the newspaper,” said owner, Weldon Hunter, who started the business with his wife, JoAnn. “It was too expensive, so we used our money for free delivery and depended on word of mouth and when we got someone we did our best to hold on to them. When a customer comes in we drop whatever we are doing and wait on them, unless waiting on someone else. The customer comes first.”
The customer-first approach can pull the company in unexpected directions. With the use of five International flatbeds and
David Anderson works in sales for Hunter.
two Ford pickups, Hunter delivers all over the state of New Mexico and if the load size merits it, beyond. Deliveries have been made into Colorado, eastern Arizona and even Indiana, when a customer wanted the same kind of lumber Hunter supplied for the local amusement ride, Splash. The owner of a restaurant chain was so pleased with the look of peeled vigas Hunter had supplied for his restaurant in Albuquerque, that he asked to have a replicate order shipped to two others in Texas. Bower recalls a customer showing up with a forty foot long container on the back of a flatbed consigning Hunter the job of filling it with lumber before being hauled off and shipped aboard a boat from Seattle to Alaska.
Immediacy receives preeminence. Orders are known to be delivered quicker than perhaps needed. Just recently, Bower unloaded a previously loaded truck to get an order for the city zoo delivered within 30 minutes. Not only is Hunter Lumber well-established in the community, but under the tutelage of Bower, staff got to know the quirks of the town, what the traffic is like and best routes to take. An average of 15 to 18 full-time employees learn first thing when hired, of the customer-first philosophy.
In his 34 years with the company, Bower has been instrumental in its growth, believing in it since the day he started working there. “I knew in the first month on the job, that this was where I wanted to be,” said Bower. “I was one of the neighborhood kids that used to ride our bikes up here and hang around.”
Manager, Ken Bower, has been working with Hunter for 34 years.
They had watched the construction of the current site, just across the street from the barn-red metal building where Hunter and his wife first started out. “His workers used to hand unload everything, rolled the lumber off a truck and hand-loaded it into lumber bins. They even hand-unloaded Portland cement. It was a real treat to get a forklift.”
Bower came onboard part-time after high school while a student at University of New Mexico. He kept working full-time while in the reserves and recognized many of his regular customers on the base. He noted, “Former employees have customers call on courtesy phones at home centers to get what they need from us and sell it right there. We like to stay small to have control over what we can do and where we can go.”
There is no need to expand, said Bower. “The city is our warehouse.” Hunter buys an average 4 million board feet of Pine, Spruce, other Softwood species and plywood from several companies. Added to that figure are Redwood and the viga product, along with “a little bit of everything.”
Hunter property occupies the length of an acre-size city block. A 4,000-square-foot main building encloses a cu
Nelson Handley manages the yard where Hunter’s Softwood lumber is stored.
stomer service area, paint and hardware retail and offices. Orders are filled from the 4,500 square feet of warehouse space and 10,000 square feet of lumber sheds.
The Redwood and Cedar siding of Hunter Lumber’s exterior has been stained several times over the years to achieve the grey shades that suggest age. Nowadays, it kind of blends in with owner Weldon Hunter’s grey hair-topped seasoned appearance. “My wife thinks I should retire, but I enjoy what I do,” said the 78-year-old Hunter, an avid tennis player, on the court three days a week and working out at the gym on alternative days. “But I wouldn’t want to do that all of the time,” he added.
Originally a Texan, Hunter grew up in San Diego, moved to New Mexico to attend college and play football. Work in his chosen profession didn’t materialize after his graduation with a teaching degree in industrial arts. The years he spent working for Albuquerque Lumber led him on the path he’s been on ever since. There he had become acquainted with contractors that would eventually come to him for their service-oriented needs that were not part of Albuquerque Lumber’s niche.
“And it was nice to have an understanding, supportive wife especially through the early years, said Hunter of JoAnn, whose business degree was an asset for building the business.
Of their three children, one son and two daughters, only son Mike has followed in Hunter’s footsteps. Mike o
The Hunter marquee is highly visible on the corner of Menaul Boulevard and San Pedro.
wns and operates Hunter Building Materials in Edgewood, acquired from his dad in 1998. A veritable photo album of children and grandchildren adorns the walls and desk tops of Hunter’s office. A tribute to the reputable Hunter legacy is proudly displayed on the entrance wall to his office, a 1993 Contractor of The Year award from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
When Home Depot first arrived, Hunter felt it but, said the determined owner, “We’re still about service. So as long as we can keep our niche, we’re okay. We don’t try to compete with them. We do what we feel we can do and that’s it. People know they’ll get what they need that same day. We’re going strong. That’s what we’re here for.”
Maria Pacheco takes care of bookkeeping and sales at the company.
Hunter has two flatbed trucks ready for deliveries.
A Dewalt saw is available in the custom shop as needed.