The family owned Argo Fine Imports, headquartered in Metairie, La., is led by Dan MacMaster, director of transportation; Kenny MacMaster, vice president; and Don MacMaster, president.
Customers, Employees Are Family At Argo
By Wayne Miller
Metairie, La.—Argo Fine Imports (AFI), headquartered here, has always prided itself on family values. Don MacMaster, who founded Argo in 1988, is joined by his son, Kenny, and has two other sons, Robert and Ryan, who are interested in joining the business.
MacMaster takes pride in keeping close relationships with his employees and customers. For employees, he offers competitive salaries and benefits, including health insurance and a 401K-retirement plan.
“I tell my employees that as long as the company does well, they are going to benefit in a big way,” he said. “We have been able to follow through on that since the company started, and have never lost an employee. We continue to receive calls from individuals wanting to come to work here, because they learn of our philosophy and our goals. We’re a big family looking after each other.”
MacMaster said the company also maintains the same relationships with customers, most of whom have remained clients for decades.
“We really enjoy getting to know our customers on a one-on-one basis,” he said. “We like to know how many kids they have, what football team they like, what are their interests, what are their churches, etc. We have what we’ll call a ‘Donism,’ which is ‘show me a customer you’re not selling and I’ll show you a customer you know nothing about.’
“We build a relationship of trust, and I am convinced that’s what makes good long-term business,” MacMaster added. “You can call it old school, but to me, that is the most successful way.”
The New Orleans sales staff includes Joe Manguno, vice president of wholesale distribution, and Todd Wager.
The firm specializes in importing Lauan/Meranti, Hardboard, Virola, Sande, TECO-certified Elliottis Pine and offers American Red Oak and Birch in various thicknesses and lengths according to customer specifications. With Meranti plywood truckload orders, Argo Fine Imports is able to mix different sizes and lengths.
In the past year, AFI introduced Kaliawood UV Lacquer wood flooring, which is rich in aluminum oxide to ensure its resistance to abrasion while maintaining its natural character. The company also manufactures hand scraped and distressed wood flooring that has the look of an old reclaimed wood floor but with fine finishes. The distressed flooring differs in that a machine does the markings in the face, while hand scraped hardwood planes are done manually.
“Argo’s customers can expect a competitively priced product of exceptional quality, delivered to the destination of their choice, with personalized care and understanding of their customers' needs,” MacMaster said. “We take pride in reducing the hassles and wasted time that are often associated with the purchasing, tracking and scheduling of deliveries of plywood.”
MacMaster said Argo has a knowledgeable staff with over 100 years of experience in the industry and “offers expertise and knowledge of the plywood market, that includes industry manufacturers, wholesale and chain retail yard distributors and home centers.”
In addition to MacMaster, key executives include Tom Lucas, who heads the Palm City, Fla.-based operation, Seaside World Trading, and corporate sales staff in New Orleans includes Dick Olano, Buz Clanton, Kenny MacMaster and Todd Wager. Other managerial staff includes Dan MacMaster, transportation manager; Becky Harper, controller; and Linda Cobb, IT department. The firm also operates Wood Imports Northwest in Portland, Ore., which is managed by Jim Hildahl.
Key executives at Seaside World Trading, based in Palm City, Fla., includes Tom Lucas, president; Kristine Roth, administrative manager; and Tommy Lucas, sales and marketing manager.
This summer, the company added Joe Manguno as vice president of wholesale distribution. Manguno, who has more than 20 years of experience in the business, has a history with Don MacMaster. MacMaster interviewed Manguno for his first job with J.D. Prince of Plywood Panels (PPI), and worked alongside him in the raw wood division.
Manguno said he is glad to be back in Metairie, where he grew up, and working for MacMaster again. “How many guys get to work in their hometown and have a boss like Don?” he asked.
“My role with Argo Fine Imports is to build distribution sales and share the knowledge that I have acquired over the years,” he said. “I’m helping the sales team with product knowledge, sales techniques and getting to know customers.”
In addition, Manguno will be running wholesale retail, which includes purchasing and selling plywood, and helping expand the industrial side of the business.
The company is dedicated to providing customers with a broad range of cost effective, high quality wood products, and offers personalized customer-oriented value-added services from sale to delivery.
“Argo’s forte has always been the lamination high-end grade such as Malaysian or Indonesia Meranti,” he said. “We’re going to continue that and expand more towards high-end products from China. We bring in plywood from almost every country in the world. We’re really looking to grow our industrial base and expand from there.”
MacMaster said AFI’s three offices — in Metairie, Palm City, Fla., and Portland, Ore. — are part of the company’s philosophy to “diversify into different market segments.”
“We are trying to diversify the company so that we don’t have ‘too many eggs in one basket,’” he said. “The company’s well-being and strength is not just about the individual employee; we’re family and, if you take on the responsibility to run this company and be a part of this company, you have to be cognizant of that.”
Argo also recently installed a new $100,000 operating system that will help track containers on trucks, trains and ships as well as organize logistics information and order reports, an investment in greater efficiency.
New employees include Linda Cobb, IT department, and Joe Manguno, vice president of wholesale distribution.
Argo Fine Imports is a member of the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Assoc. (HPVA), International Wood Products Assoc. (IWPA) and the National Wood Flooring Assoc. (NWFA). The firm also markets the Justin Original brand of insulated workwear, which offers durability and comfort for the professional worker.
MacMaster’s story is also an example of how hard work pays off. After joining PPI in 1983, MacMaster began his own company in 1988 and started AFI in 1993 with Debbie Leboeuf, who had been his executive secretary at PPI.
“We started basically on a shoestring budget and ended up being ‘Entrepreneur of the Year,’” he said. “We have grown from there and, today, have multiple offices and over $70 million in sales.”