Wolf Organization sells retail business

The housing downturn claimed another pro dealer last month when The Lumber Yard, an LBM chain headquartered in York, Pa., sold a pair of locations to a competitor and entered into negotiations with separate buyers for its remaining two units. Wolf Organization, parent company of The Lumber Yard, said it wanted to concentrate on its more successful distribution business, which handles kitchen cabinets, siding, composite decking and other building materials.

John H. Myers & Son, a five-unit pro dealer in South Central Pennsylvania, has acquired the assets of The Lumber Yard locations in York, Pa., and Hagerstown, Md. The Lumber Yard’s last two locations, in Downingtown and Whitehall, Pa., will also be sold to existing lumberyards, according to Jim Groff, the senior vp-marketing for Wolf Organization.

“We’re looking to have the exact same disposition, but with two other regional independents,” Groff told Home Channel News. “We’re very, very close on one [deal].”

John H. Myers, also headquartered in York, will transfer equipment and inventory from the two purchased yards to its own locations. In addition to the York facility, the 92-year-old company operates branches in Chambersburg, Dallastown, Hanover and Camp Hill, Pa. All 73 employees of the two Lumber Yard locations will be offered job s at John H. Myers, which listed $60 million in sales for 2007 on the HCN Pro Dealer Top 350 Scoreboard.

“We’re hiring everybody upfront,” said company president Bob Myers III in an interview with Home Channel News. “They’ve got some long-time, knowledgeable people.”

A fourth generation owner, Myers has already witnessed an 84 Lumber and Stock Building Supply close in his market since the housing downturn. By purchasing the two Lumber Yard locations, Myers hopes “to keep a good chunk of their business without a lot of infrastructure costs,” he said.

The Lumber Yard, which started 2007 with 18 units in five Mid-Atlantic states, went through a major restructuring late last year. Half of the chain’s locations were closed, and five regional “super yards” were created with additional inventory, equipment and service levels. Four smaller lumberyards were also kept open.

But as the housing market continued to tank, nine locations dwindled down to four. But The Lumber Yard continued to serve builders and remodelers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, using a warehouse and delivery system derived from its sister organization, Wolf Distributing.

“Our footprint has not gotten any smaller,” Len Kopec, The Lumber Yard’s president and CEO, told Home Channel News in September. Housing starts had slowed to a crawl by then, however. “Nothing is coming out of the ground that isn’t sold first,” said Kopec, who retired last month after 40 years in the LBM business.

By contrast, Wolf Distributing has gained market share over the past two years, largely through new product lines and distribution agreements.

Also headquartered in York, the $223.7 million wholesaler distributes kitchen cabinets, countertops and bath vanities from Maine to the Carolinas. A second distribution center in Allentown, Pa., serves Pennsylvania; Maryland; Delaware; Virginia; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; and parts of New York with composite decking, siding, and trim, house wrap and a few other specialty building materials.

Groff attributed the company’s growth to the additions of AZEK trim molding and James Hardie fiber cement siding in 2008. The distributor also finished implementing an SAP system throughout the entire organization, greatly expanding product availability to Wolf’s customers , which include big boxes, independent lumberyards, plumbing supply houses and kitchen and bath retailers. Wolf now offers overnight or next truck delivery on most of its inventory, Groff said.