When it comes to finding convenient hardware, building materials and other construction supplies, local dealers come up with a powerful tool. Started by the Western New York Lumber Dealers Association (WNYLDA), a chapter of the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA), LocalBuildingMaterials.com is a resource that connects local-friendly consumers with independently owned dealers in their communities. Not to mention, it’s perhaps the most obvious way that local businesses in the building materials industry have worked together to support a common goal.
“Local building material dealers were here to build the foundations of our towns from the very beginning,” says Deborah Smith of Smith Lumber & Hardware Center in Lakeville, New York. “We are all independent building material dealers that, while competitors, work together for the good of our communities.”
Smith has seen the supportive and collaborative nature of small businesses since joining the business run by her now-husband’s family in 1996. She worked only part-time at first, balancing the retail work with her career as a teacher and her studies as a graduate student. She eventually joined the business full-time, alongside her husband Chuck Smith, and has left her mark on the industry ever since.
“As you can imagine, being a woman in a man’s world and never really being a part of this business, it was very intimidating to think that I could ever live up to the standards and passion that the men in this business have for it,” she says. “Every independent lumber dealer that I have met has been truly genuine and really involved in the community, the business, their families, etc. It is really enlightening to see competition working together for a common cause.”
In 2016, Smith was voted “Lumber Person of the Year” by her fellow small business owners in WNYLDA. Smith also serves as president of the WNYLDA, which developed and manages LocalBuildingMaterials.com and the NRLA’s advertising and promotional program for independent members. The program incorporates member businesses into commercials, web promotions and, of course, LocalBuildingMaterials.com, which provides a directory of independently owned lumber and hardware stores.
“In 2016 alone, almost $150,000 was spent on airtime to promote members in upstate New York,” says Steve Ciccone, regional director for NRLA.
In his work in the industry, Ciccone has seen the same collaborative spirit that Smith has. “After over 20 years in this industry, I’m still amazed with how fiercely the independents will compete in the marketplace, but at the same time, gladly and passionately work together on common issues for the good of the industry,” he says.
It’s that collaborative spirit that inspired LocalBuildingMaterials.com. “It is a website designed to help consumers find independent lumber dealers and shop locally, keeping their tax dollars and money inside their own communities and keeping jobs in their own communities,” Smith says. The online directory features dozens of independently owned businesses from across the state of New York. According to Smith, dealers are enthusiastic about the tool, and the number of dealers participating in the program is rising. As a program in its fifth year, dealers can think of LocalBuildingMaterials.com as a reliable and consistent source of support for their businesses.
“We are in business to support our families and our communities,” Smith says of independent businesses like hers. “Project for project, we can typically save consumers money and help them with any questions they may have about their project.”
Ultimately, that’s the difference that buying local makes. Independent businesses offer a better customer experience along with competitive prices. For instance, Smith Lumber & Hardware Center, along with many other WNYLDA and NRLA members belong to the Do it Best Corp. family of businesses, which gives them the purchasing power of a large corporation.
In fact, the Do it Best Corp. model represents another way that small businesses come together despite the potential competition that exists between them. “As an independent business, Smith Lumber can stay competitive with the big box stores by being a part of a buying co-op, such as Do it Best Corp.,” Smith says. “The co-op also has great programs to help us grow our business.”
Whether it’s in a co-op like the Do it Best Corp. or a trade association like WNYLDA, local hardware and lumber businesses work together strategically for common goals. As a result, they’re better prepared to contribute to their local economies and communities. Visit their collaborative tool for yourself at www.localbuildingmaterials.com.
Independent We Stand is dedicated to helping independent businesses across the country engage their communities and encouraging customers to buy local. If you’re a business owner, get buy local resources, tips and news by registering for a business membership. Your business will also be included in our ‘locals only’ search engine and mobile app. If you’re a consumer, take the pledge to buy local to join the movement.