Cedar’s Among Species Driving LAMPERT YARDS’ Success
St. Paul, Minn.–Lampert Yards Inc., headquartered here, caters to professional builders and remodelers in towns with as few as 700 people up to metropolitan areas such as the Twin Cities, which has a combined population of nearly 3 million people.
Cedar and various Softwood are offered at Lampert Yards, headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., and owned by Dan Fesler, pictured.
According to company president Bob Egan, Lamperts does this without a cookie-cutter approach, adapting its offerings to the building needs in each town and giving each local manager autonomy to make on-the-spot decisions.
Lamperts, in business since 1887, carries high quality building products. “That’s just what our customers demand,” Egan said.
The company purchased $20 million in lumber in 2009 as well as $6 million in plywood and OSB. Purchases include Cedar, Hem-Fir, ESLP, SYP, Red Pine and SPF. Lamperts buys higher grade wood, including No. 2 and Better. Most dimension is of SPF in narrow width. Wide widths are in Hem-Fir and the company offers a full range of Pine, mostly ESLP.
Centralized purchasing is carried out from the headquarters in St. Paul. Stores do some of their own purchasing for small lots. Lamperts buys mostly from distributors but it also makes purchases from wholesalers.
Average inventories of lumber vary from store to store. Also, the grade of lumber sold for projects varies from customer to customer. “It’s pretty flexible,” Egan said. For example, a single family homebuilder would require a higher grade of lumber than a commercial builder would.
Lamperts sells lumber – including Cedar decking and laminated beams, Pine boards,– paint, cabinets, hardware, dimension and a “full line of anything builders need to build a home,” Egan said. Also included are windows, doors, millwork, tile, carpeting, paneling, tools, plumbing, electrical, fireplaces, roofing, siding and insulation.
The company delivers products to job sites where the purchasers install them, and offers drafting, estimating and installation of insulation.
Lamperts’ goods and services help people with construction of new homes, remodeling, decks and gazebos, storage sheds and specialty buildings as well as with earlier mentioned needs.
The North Branch, Minn., Lampert store celebrates a Grand Opening.
The company has 15 stores in Wisconsin, 13 in Minnesota, two in Iowa and one each in North Dakota and South Dakota.
Lamperts employs 415 people. Training for these workers comes from a number of sources, including Lumber Tech, the University of Minnesota and vendors.
For building projects, buyers or builders often bring their customers to Lamperts to see doors, windows and cabinets and to operate them – to let them get a feel for what will be installed in their homes. These visits provide good visibility and marketing opportunities for Lamperts.
The company’s best-sellers are lumber products (Pine boards, framing lumber, treated lumber), windows, roofing, siding, millwork, and panel products – plywood and OSB.
Key personnel include Dan Fesler, CEO; Egan; and Kevin Tauer, CFO. Fesler became the eighth president of Lamperts in 1994, following in the footsteps of his father, John L. Fesler, his grandfather John K. Fesler and his great grandfather Jacob Lampert. Dan Fesler is the fourth generation of his family to own the company.
Lamperts was originally founded by two brothers, Jacob and Leonard Lampert, with the purchase of a yard in Sleepy Eye, Minn. Both brothers were born in Switzerland and their father moved the family to the United States in 1866. Jacob managed the yard at Sleepy Eye while Leonard ran a yard purchased in 1890 in Mankato, Minn.
In Spooner, Wis., Lampert opened this new location.
As communities sprang up along railroad lines in the Northern U.S., Lamperts set up 10 lumberyards in these towns before 1900.
In 1900, Lamperts’ headquarters was moved to the Twin Cities. By 1937, Lamperts had a total of 53 yards. The next year, John K. Fesler was elected president of the company.
From then until the late 1970s, the company quickly grew and prospered. According to Lamperts website, “Sales volume increased steadily. Yards were bought and sold during this period. Most of the time, yards were purchased one at a time. At one point, the company owned approximately 75 yards.”
The 1980s were a turbulent time for the lumber and building materials industry and for Lamperts. Since then, Lamperts has positioned itself for success.
Egan was recently asked how he thought the next six months would go for Lamperts. He said his crystal ball was cloudy. However, he said, “We’re budgeting relatively flat with a year ago.”
Asked about a year ahead, he said his crystal ball was “even cloudier. I really don’t know. The year 2010 started strong and slowed up a little bit. I see some good indications. But they’re spotty as well.”
He was asked how Lamperts deals with winter months, considering that their stores are in some of the coldest spots in the nation. “That’s part of our challenge,” he acknowledged. Winter can be a tough time, he said, and it can be hard to retain good employees during those frigid months. The best months for Lamperts, he said, are June through October.
Lampert sells lumber and carries a full line of products for the building industry.
With the economic downturn, Lamperts has minimized operations to meet the business environment, Egan said. Lamperts closed its two smallest stores in 2010. Both were in areas serviced by multiple Lamperts operations. Nearly all of the company’s salespeople have been retained.
“We’ve got a strong sales team, strong local management with autonomy to manage from the local level without a cookie cutter approach and all quality products,” Egan said.
The experience of its employees and the decision-making authority given to its managers are two strengths of Lamperts, Egan noted.