Custom millwork shops and design studios are key offerings from 84 Lumber that make it much more than a simple supplier of building materials.
By Staci Davidson, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
84 Lumber operates under the tagline “Been there. Built that.” This is not really a tongue-in-cheek attitude toward the construction industry, although it does make one smile. It is more an assurance to its contractor customers that it has the knowledge, experience and products to help on a range of projects and assist with any issue.
This knowledge and depth of operations is what makes 84 Lumber much more than a lumber store. Founded in 1956, 84 Lumber’s operations focus on all areas of the homebuilding and remodeling industry, serving professional contractors and DIY-ers and providing building materials, manufactured components and industry-leading services for projects on single-family homes, multifamily residences and commercial buildings.
The company operates more than 250 locations around the United States, including component manufacturing plants, custom door shops, custom millwork shops and engineered wood product centers. “This is a privately held, family-owned company, and we really pride ourselves on that,” Vice President of Marketing Amy Smiley explains. “When you talk to anyone here, the constant theme is that this is like a big family. We all look out for each other, work hard and accomplish goals together like a family. That is something, considering we have more than 5,500 associates in more than 30 states. Our leader – Maggie Hardy Magerko – is very passionate about this business and wants to take the company to the next level, making it more modern, more contemporary.”
When 84 Lumber hits the International Builders’ Show (IBS) in February in Las Vegas, it plans to highlight its modern side, and demonstrate all of the ways in which the company has become much more than a building materials supplier to better serve its customers.
In recent years, 84 Lumber has been working hard to enhance what it offers homebuilding contractors, and one key way it has achieved this is by offering custom mouldings and millwork, in addition to its lines of trim and moulding from reputable manufacturers. The company’s millwork shops are at its headquarters in Eighty Four, Pa., as well as in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Boston, Mass.; and the Hamptons in New York. 84 Lumber understands its customers’ needs, so its millwork shops are dedicated to premium work.
Focused on delivering hardwood and custom millwork services, the shops combine high-tech equipment with hands-on, craftsmen experience to produce one-of-a-kind products, employing a “if you can draw it, we can build it” attitude. “84 Lumber is more and more into different markets, and we already have a lot of installed sales with the framing and truss plants, and custom millwork brings us into a higher market,” Custom Millwork Area Manager Mitch Kiluk explains. “We have very skilled people here, and I’ve been doing this my entire career.”
He notes the millwork shops’ projects run the gamut of custom details contractors need for the homes they are building, but the common thread is that there is almost always a very short lead time. Contractors need to keep their projects moving, and 84 Lumber understands this with its vast experience in the industry. The millwork shops have the skills and expertise to respond in accordance to the quality and schedule builders require.
“These shops have really gotten us into higher-end projects,” Kiluk says. “We have provided exterior brackets on a house, structural or decorative enhancements, custom entranceways, doorways and all of the mouldings, wainscoting and built-in cabinetry that a project may require. We can do anything the contractors can’t buy pre-manufactured.”
All of the shops’ projects are unique, but that is what 84 Lumber enjoys – delivering something custom that will enhance a home. Kiluk has noticed there is demand for quite a bit of custom veneer projects, but 84 Lumber is ready to take on anything. “Many times, if an architect is involved on the project, they will specify the actual log a veneer is harvested from,” he notes. “We will make sure the log can do the paneling job that the contractor and architect want. Once we have them approve the veneers, we will manufacture the products they want.”
The custom millwork shops typically work with builders, architects and homeowners at the same time, advising them on how different ways of fabrication can turn their visions into reality or explaining what is possible that is beyond what the drawing shows.
“We have been working on a nice residential project that will be one of our marquee projects here,” Kiluk says. “We’re doing all of the home’s trim, doors, stair parts and custom built-ins. We’re making floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall built-ins that look like paneling but the doors open. With the doors open, you can see pants hanging and pull them out, and there is a jewelry drawer with felt lining. There even is a secret compartment in the jewelry drawer to protect the good stuff. It’s fun to work on these types of projects.”
84 Lumber continues to implement procedures and processes to help it ensure quality on these projects, but most of the time it’s the craftsmen’s skills that shine through. “With the size of 84, we have really strong buying power to obtain materials at a better price point, and we can pass those savings on,” Kiluk says. “But, we also have hundreds of years of experience here with our craftspeople, and that really helps us turn out a high-end product. We do sell pre-manufactured kitchen products in our design centers, so 84 can do the entire project and offer custom enhancements, and the builder gets one point of contact, which takes a lot of the burden off of them.”
84 Lumber continues to add to its product and service offering to best meet the needs of builders, and another part of its full-service dedication is its Kitchen and Bath Design Studios. The company has more than 30 studios across the country, and just like its custom millwork shops, the studios work closely with contractors and homeowners to understand their inspirations and bring the ideas to life.
Mary Laipple, regional director of 84 Lumber’s Kitchen and Bath Design Studios, came from a commercial design background, and notes that staff in the studios either have extensive experience working with builders and homeowners or have interior design backgrounds to help add to the overall design aesthetic. 84 Lumber understands the importance of this service, because costs of homebuilding and remodeling can quickly go up in these rooms.
“Truly, it does not take long for a project to go beyond its original scope. Sometimes the customer needs to be redirected,” Laipple says. “The wonderful thing about 84 Lumber is that our studios offer many different cabinet styles and price points. Those, combined with our buying capacity, allow us to work effectively with our customers and help them focus on what is really important to them. We build trust with our clients by having the right knowledge in the field and understanding how each cabinet line goes to market. Our familiarity with the products and different options enables us to fit them into a customer’s budget. In the end, it’s all about getting the look that the client wants.”
Through its 20/20 Design program, 84 Design Studios can provide 3-D renderings of a client’s project, including where windows and doors are located. At that point, the studio team can work with the client to move design elements around to see other options. Laipple explains the custom millwork shops have done a lot to enhance what the Design Studios can offer.
“We can bring in the millwork shops to help us really customize a project,” she says. “They can help us with live-edge materials and walnut-finish floating shelves. Or, because they are a millwork shop, they can create anything that a custom cabinet shop can do. If a customer can dream it, we can design and create it. The team has the ability to support remodelers and builders by creating custom material that will achieve our clients’ goals, whether it’s matching an old-style crown moulding or creating something that a customer has seen in a magazine. These are the skills we are going to highlight at IBS.”
A Big Heart
The 84 Design Studios and the custom millwork shops work closely together to meet builders’ needs, and that teamwork is illustrative of the entire company – 84 Lumber always strives to work together to not only serve builders, but to assist each other and the stores’ communities. These qualities also will be on display at IBS when the company attends in February.
“A lot of our competition is publicly owned, but we are a private, woman-owned company, and that is important to us,” Smiley says. “We pride ourselves in the training we offer to our employees because we want to give them the tools they need to be successful. So many people have come here and knew nothing about the industry or lumber, but stayed, held different positions and learned so much. By investing in our people, we can provide service that sets us apart from everyone else. It’s about being on this team, and you see it in the stores, at our Team Headquarters, and it’s all very authentic.”
This comradery spreads beyond its stores into the 84 Lumber communities as well. In October, the company raised money for the fight against breast cancer by selling pink shirts to associates to benefit the American Cancer Society, sponsoring the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Pittsburgh, and donating baskets of goods for cancer patients at a Pittsburgh-area hospital.
84 Lumber also takes pride in supporting veterans and helping when natural disasters strike in the United States. “Our owner, Maggie, is very generous,” Kiluk says. “We end up donating more than $1 million every year to different organizations across the country because it’s important for us to give back and be a part of the community. This company’s heart stretches across the country.”