Retail lumber chain McLendon’s Hardware, headquartered in Renton, Wash., serves large contractors to do-it-yourselfers in the Northwest from its seven store sites.
McLendon Serves Northwest From Seven Sites
By Clare Adrian
Renton, Wash.—The contrast is vivid between the McLendon Hardware of today and its humble beginnings 79 years ago. “Pop” McLendon started out selling secondhand merchandise here in 1929. Pictures of Pop still tower over the front entrance of the current Renton location as he posed in the first store, known as U.S. Junk back then.
As his business grew, Pop received requests for new items, including lumber. Pop had six children, most of whom joined him in the business and subsequently took the helm as Pop grew older. That second generation is now retired and the third has taken over the company with Gail McLendon as president. The business has expanded into a store chain within the Puget Sound area with additional locations in Sumner, Woodinville, Puyallup and White Center in Kent, plus a lumberyard known as Seattle Lumber in Renton.
John Campbell, lumber buyer for McLendon/Renton, said that the firms’ Softwood lumber is purchased primarily within the state of Washington. Campbell purchases upwards of 50,000 board feet of lumber annually for the single location. Each store purchases similar amounts, which translates into a cumulative total of approximately 300,000 board feet of lumber annually.
Although Hemlock comprises a good percentage of the 2x4 moulding handled by McLendon’s, an ample supply of Pine moulding, pictured here, is also available at McLendon’s seven stores.
The majority of the lumber is comprised of Douglas Fir, which is stocked in all seven yards, including Seattle Lumber. The pressure treated Hemlock ships from Western Wood Preserving in Sumner; the Cedar and Pine come from Orepac in Lakewood near Tacoma; and the majority of dimension wood from local distributor Belco Forest Products in Sumner. Most of the wood for moulding is Hemlock and structural 2x4 through 2x12 are Fir. Campbell said he has a fairly good idea of the lumber that is on hand at all times by using a point-of-sale system and taking physical inventory on a weekly basis.
The Renton store is one block from the original site where Pop McLendon started out and alongside one of the town’s busiest streets—Rainier Ave—which happens to be in a residential area. So McLendon’s customers—from large account contractors to commercial and do-it-yourself retail clients—don’t have to navigate the congested downtown area to shop the store. In fact, all of the McLendon stores are conveniently located in their respective towns.
One considerable asset in the storage area of the 120,000-square-foot Renton building is the Auto-stak system that enables more lumber to be stored indoors out of inclement weather, as well as quicker load outs. Lumber manager Larry Branum, who has been with the Renton store for seven years, said that the store is equipped for custom cutting. Branum is in charge of inventory control, training and sales, and manages the four-man inside crew. There are five additional outside yard workers. For transporting materials within the yard, Branum said the company uses three Nissan fork lifts. For deliveries, the Renton location has a curtained f
Douglas Fir comprises a vast majority of the products in McLendon’s large inventory, which also includes this treated lumber.
latbed truck to keep lumber dry and a smaller truck for backup, though most deliveries are through McLendon’s major store in Sumner. However, contractors often simply stop in the Renton store to purchase what they need.
Bruce Stevens, who is director of advertising and marketing and has been with McLendon’s for nearly 15 years, described the McLendon chain as a competitive, strong, clear alternative to large box stores. Stevens added that McLendon’s also has its own distribution center outside of the stores that works as central receiving for most of the merchandise that is purchased. From this center, product is broken out to the stores, delivered on semis and trailers, and much of the lumber is drop-shipped directly to each site by manufacturers.
McLendon’s growth pattern has been constant and controlled, said Stevens. “We are not to a point where we like to leverage ourselves at the risk of hurting our operations,” he said. “We have many opportunities presented to us to find other locations. But we want to make sure we have everything operational and well in one store before we open up another. One thing McLendon is founded upon is customer service and we don’t want to open more locations just for the sake of growth and jeopardize our customer service in any way.”
The company’s marketing efforts epitomize McLendon’s customer service philosophy. This series of humorous television ads, for which McLendon won a national award, can be seen on stations in the Northwest region of the U.S. In the TV spots, a grey-haired second generation McLendon—Bob—bedecked in striped overalls and a McLendon cap, stands silent and ready to lend his years of expertise to help customers, but unwilling to say anything on TV. Helpful Bob i
Ready and willing to serve, McLendon’s reports to employ more customer service associates per square foot than most chain “box stores.”
s contrasted with a Hawaiian-shirt-clad competitor’s employee, who is too engrossed in conversation on his cell phone to stop and help a customer. According to Mike McLendon, the chain’s stores have more employees per square foot than the “box stores,” which enables McLendon’s to maintain customer service as its central focus. Of the 500 McLendon employees, 125 work at the Renton location.
An annual appreciation party demonstrates another value of McLendon’s. Each store holds a party to honor employee contributions for the year. Stevens, in turn, appreciates the amenities of working for the family-owned company. “The McLendons give you a lot of latitude,” he said.
Bob McLendon not only represents the second of three generations involved in the family business, he also represents the firm in a series of humorous TV commercials aired throughout the Northwest.