Real Building Supply, in Leakey, Texas, is a family-owned business that is led by: Kevin Blalock, manager; Debbie Blalock, CFO; and Jerry Blalock, retired company owner and father.
Leakey, Texas–With a local population of 399, this small, hill-country town would not seem to offer much in the way of steady business for a retail/distribution lumberyard. Nevertheless, Real Building Supply, Inc. has carved a solid market niche since the company was purchased by Jerry and Debbie Blalock in 1993. Since that time, the company has emerged as a part retailer, part distributor and all-around indispensable resource for general building supplies.
The company’s drive-in lumberyard covers 2.5 acres with 50,000 square feet of undercover storage outdoors. Additionally, there is an 8,000 square foot hardware store to fulfill orders for almost any building project of any size. “We celebrated our 15th anniversary last May,” said Kevin Blalock, who has managed the company since his father’s retirement. Sales have increased about five percent each year since 2001.
Through 2008, Real Building Supply’s staff posted annual sales of 500,000 board feet of Softwood products, including mouldings.
“The majority of our sales are to custom home builders in the area,” said Kevin. “The spring-fed Frio River and surrounding valley between two mountain ranges is the biggest tourist attraction and people invest in second homes, retirement homes and vacation homes here. Most of them have a six-month timeline. If it weren’t for tourism and construction Real County would be a hard place to make a living, but even in a recession of this type, construction continues.”
Real Building Supply’s drive-in lumberyard covers 2.5 acres with 50,000 square feet of undercover storage outside.
At any given time, there are five to eight custom home builders active in Real County, according to Kevin. “Our home builders are custom home builders and with any custom home builder it takes more time to build those homes and requires a high end product line. We focus on having a higher quality product in stock.”
Blalock orders his varied inventory from a variety of suppliers that place the emphasis on quality, including Dixie Plywood, Boise, Cedar Supplier and Alamo Forest.
In addition to lumber for framing and mouldings, Real Building Supply also offers truss packages, engineered wood products, flooring, windows and custom doors. “We do a lot of our products in SPF-graded White Pine,” said Kevin. “Because I need to guarantee quality, I find that it holds up better than Southern Yellow Pine with less twist and split during holding time.”
In addition to superior holding traits, Blalock noted that White Pine also offers a clearer finish for the popular rustic look with stained mouldings in the high-end custom homes.
“We don’t have a lot of call for finger jointed materials,” he said. Blalock primarily stocks dimensional lumber in 2x4s in eight to 16-foot lengths. He also offers pattern stocks and 122 for interior siding in White Pine. “We also offer Western Red Cedar for its rustic appeal. There’s a log home manufacturer here who uses the Aspen we order for him on the home walls, too,” he said.
The usual forklift function of pulling orders for customers often extends to down-the-road delivery for Real Building Supply customers, who are often located less than four miles from the store.
Because of Leakey’s remote location, Real Building Supply’s inventory includes everything from windmill pumps to rebar and lumber. “It’s surprising how many people come in here who don’t know what a pound of nails looks like, they’re so used to buying retail from a big box concern.”
Blalock concedes that his prices are not intended to compete with commercial quality distribution yards. “I tell my customers if they stick with me for quality, my volume will go up and their prices will go down,” he said. To assist customers in getting the most value for their order, Real Building Supply offers same-day or next-morning delivery to most. “We also offer framing plans that yield minimal waste - if they follow them. If a customer buys lumber according to one of those plans from us, we’ll pay for the take-off, which will be much less,” said Kevin.
He continued, “It’s amazing some of the places that people choose to build homes here,” said Kevin. “(Homeowners) have spectacular views but the steep hillside sites require real finesse to maneuver our International flatbed truck with a dump bed to some of these home sites.”
To offer delivery in difficult situations, Blalock frequently sends orders out on one of the company’s two new KD Manitou forklifts. “They can defeat most mud pit building sites, and since they can go 22 miles per hour, it’s not unreasonable to reach most of our delivery sites. Dad and I have discussed adding a piggyback truck with a forklift on the back, but now is not the right time. It’s a given that smart companies trim the fat to survive lean times,” Kevin said.
Pull-to-length bins built in 1958 are still viable storage for Real Building Supply.
Two new high-end subdivisions requiring architectural designs are planned for the Frio River Valley in and around Leakey, which a less experienced businessman might see as reason to hope for growth. But Blalock is cautious, noting recent property tax hikes and other subdivisions are still open to buyers. His previous stock broker’s career has brought long-term insight to his management decisions at Real Building Supply, which he still discusses with his father. “We own the property and the store and most of the merchandise is paid for. Now is not the time for us to go into new inventory,” said Kevin.
For more information about Real Building Supply, Inc., visit the company’s Web site at www.realbuilding.net or contact them at 830-232-5166.