Washington Lumber and Home Center: A home town business

By John Butters, The JOURNAL


Nothing beats home-grown expertise. Just ask the do-it-yourselfer hitting the panic button on a Saturday afternoon repair that has gone completely wrong.

A short drive to Washington Lumber and Home Center for not only more materials but some friendly advice from the Redlinger family might save the project and the afternoon.

Owner John Redlinger has 33 years in the construction business, and he and his sons Jeremy, Eric and Rob are in a good position to help both do-it-yourselfers and contractors.

?We enjoy working with customers who are trying to do the job themselves,? John said

The family purchased Bruty?s Lumber five years ago to build their own business in Washington. The business is located at 2193 Lexington. The family also owns the Sigourney Lumber yard, located at 802 North Shuffleton Avenue in Sigourney.

John said, as a contractor, he was a customer of the Washington lumberyard before he was an owner. When visiting the store, he often wondered if it would be a good business for him.

?I just thought that it might be something that I would enjoy doing,? he said.

He felt his construction experience would be an asset to the business and that after going up and down ladders for 33 years, it might be a good time to try something else.

He said he might not have made the change had his sons not been interested in the venture. But they were all in and so the family has pooled its construction experience for the benefit of local contractors and the do-it-yourselfers.

While they all pitch in on the job, each has his own specialty. His son Jeremy takes care of buying the lumber, Eric manages the hardware and in-store merchandise and Rob works with contractors reading blueprints and making materials lists.

Washington Lumber is affiliated with Do it Best Corporation, a member-owned hardware, lumber, and building materials cooperative based in Fort Wayne, Ind. Do it Best Corporation does not mandate store identities, so member-owners may or may not display the Do it Best brand name in their businesses.

John said an affiliation with a franchise is a big help in business.

?It increases your buying power and simplifies the buying process. They have programs for education and a computer system that assists you in tracking your business,? he said.

John said his lumberyard carries only the premium grades of lumber, due to the expense and problems of inventorying lower grades. He said it carries a higher price, but it is worth it.

?It?s not the same quality as you might purchase at the larger stores. That?s why it?s not the same price,? he said.

In addition to lumber, his store also carries hardware, plumbing supplies and interior and exterior paint.

His sister Julie Ross manages the paint department.

?We have a large selection of paint. We also have color-matching equipment. Someone can bring in a chip of paint from a previous job and we can match it,? he said.

John said the challenge of running a retail business is different from those he faced in the construction company he owned for 17 years.

?Managing the inventory is challenging. You try to have the right amount of the right stuff,? he said.

Like many family businesses, the Redlingers believe in shopping locally. It is the best way to help your community, he said.

?If you want to keep your town going, you have to support the businesses that contribute to its success,? he said.

His business taxes pay for local schools and city services, he said. He and other local businesses help support community-oriented projects in Washington schools and service clubs.

The Redlinger family investment in Washington and Sigourney is a vote of confidence in the community it serves.

Home town and home-grown enterprises like Washington Lumber and Home Center strengthen the community and stimulate its economy while lending a helping hand to their neighbors.