Calvert City Lumber Company Inc., located in Calvert City, KY, purchases about 700,000 board feet of lumber annually from its 4-acre site that includes a 74,000-square-foot warehouse and an 11,000-square-foot showroom.
Personal Services with a Smile at Calvert City Lumber
Calvert City, KY— Calvert City Lumber Co. Inc., located here, purchases about 700,000 board feet of lumber annually from its 4-acre site location that includes a 74,000-square-foot warehouse and an 11,000-square-foot showroom. The company buys No. 1 and No. 3 Yellow Pine and Spruce; and offers 1x3-8-foot Fir strips of 1x4 8-12-16 & 1x6 8-12-16-foot No. 3 Pine; and various sizes of No. 2 Spruce and premium Spruce. It also stocks 2x6 8-20-foot boards in Yellow Pine No.2 and 2x4-2x12 (in 8-20-foot lengths) in Southern Yellow Pine No. 1.
During its 62 years in business Calvert City Lumber has weathered a few storms. Economic downturns, changes in customer buying habits, fluctuations in the national building market, and even the introduction of the cell phone have impacted the way this retail building supply store and manufacturer of roof trusses does business.
When big box “do it yourself” retailers Lowe’s and Home Depot began aggressively expanding across the U.S. in the 1990s, family-owned and operated Calvert City Lumber was once again forced to look at its business model and figure out ways to stand apart from the rest of the pack.
Manager Mark Prince accepts an award from the Chamber of Commerce in January 2013 for the year 2012.
To work through those challenges, Mark Prince, manager, said the company sticks to its guns when it comes to offering personalized customer service and support – a commitment that many of its competitors overlook. “Customers can come in and sit down with our estimating department instead of standing across the counter from someone who has no experience in the industry,” said Prince, whose grandfather, J.B. “Boots” Conn founded Calvert City Lumber in 1951. James Conn (J.B.’s son and Prince’s uncle) serves as president of the firm, which is run by Prince; Eric Prince (James’ nephew and Mark’s brother), is operations and truss plant manager; and Bobby Bradley is sales manager.
With 15 employees, Calvert City Lumber is a full line supplier of building materials including: lumber, windows, doors, mouldings, kitchen cabinets, paint, and hardware. The firm also sells about 600,000 square feet of sheet goods annually, including plywood, OSB, TechShield and Zip products. The company’s roof truss division manufactures and sells trusses for homes, pole buildings, and commercial buildings. Its pole barn division sells and erects pole buildings of any size or specification.
Over the years, Calvert City Lumber expanded and evolved with the times and with the industries that surround it. Early on, the company’s founder was attracted to Calvert City’s growing industrial complex.
Today, Calvert City is home to 16 industrial plants that serve as a key source of employment for Western Kentucky. The majority are chemical manufacturers with some steel and metallurgical plants and industrial services firms. “We are located close to these industrial plants, and not on a main highway,” Prince said. “We do a lot of business with these plants and their maintenance contractors.”
Calvert City Lumber is a full line supplier of building materials including: lumber, windows, doors, mouldings, kitchen cabinets, paint, and hardware.
In the early 1960s and 1970s, Calvert City Lumber contracted and built many of the homes in Calvert City and surrounding areas of New Kuttawa and New Eddyville. The roof truss division was started in 1971 and was one of the only two companies in the western part of the state that manufactured roof trusses. In 1980, after graduating from college, its current president started a hollow metal door and frame division of Calvert City Lumber –‘Commercial Door & Hardware.’ In 1984, Conn purchased Calvert City Lumber from his family.
A member of the Western Kentucky Construction Association, the Homebuilder Association of Kentucky, and the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, Calvert City Lumber is focused primarily on the professional builder who has come to rely on the service, support, and product availability that the specialized retailer provides. “We know we’re not going to be the cheapest, but we do pride ourselves in having the highest quality lumber,” Prince pointed out. “When we buy Spruce, for example, we’re looking for Premium, A-grade lumber. And our treated lumber is prime-grade with four edges on it. We only want the good stuff.”
Calvert City Lumber also has location on its side when competing with the big box retailers that have infiltrated its industry over the last 20 years. “We’re off the beaten path so customers really have to come to us. We’re not sitting out here on a highway or at a major intersection,” said Prince, who pointed to the growth of cell phone use as a less visible business shift that the company has had to adjust to. Before mobile phones became ubiquitous, for example, the store’s landline would ring off the hook with new orders, questions, and customer requests. Today, much of that communication takes place between Calvert City Lumber’s sales reps and their customers via mobile phone or text message.
Doors on display in the company’s showroom.
“It used to bother us when we didn’t hear the phone on the counter ringing,” Prince said, “until we caught onto the fact that much of that incoming business was being handled directly by our sales reps.” In response to that shift – and to save some money on telecommunications – the company cut down its number of landlines from five to three.
Calvert City Lumber is no stranger to innovation and adaptation. In fact, Prince – who started working for the company in 1975 when he was just a youngster – remembers a time when roof trusses were built with a handheld press. He also recalls loading more than 1,000 hundred-pound bags of blasting sand onto pallets for customer deliveries. “Things were pretty labor-intensive back then,” said Prince. “We’ve come a long way in terms of our processes, equipment, and how we get things done.”
As the nation’s housing market slowly emerges from one of the worst downturns in history, Calvert City Lumber is well positioned to serve the builders that it has stuck with through the good and the bad times. “Our customers have been through a pretty rough period; if they’re not building anything, then we suffer too,” said Prince. “But we’re feeling a pulse now that we’re hoping continues to strengthen in 2014 and beyond.”