With a forward-thinking female leader, 84 Lumber continues to build the American dream for clients with its dedication to service, associates and new investments.
By Staci Davidson, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing
When new 84 Lumber associates go to the company’s “lumber camp” for training, they’ll notice a giant quote on the wall from company founder Joe Hardy that says “You Are Significant.” Lumber camp teaches associates about the company’s offerings, what it looks like to frame a house, and how to understand homebuilding and 84 Lumber’s products in great detail. The quote sets the stage for what new associates can expect from the company’s culture, which has made 84 Lumber a stand-out in the homebuilding and construction industries. Today, the company is the nation’s leading privately held supplier of building materials, manufactured components, and services for single- and multifamily residences, as well as commercial buildings.
“The culture at 84 has stayed consistent since day one,” President Maggie Hardy stresses. “It’s founded on hard work, dedication and customer service. Our main mission is to help homebuilders and contractors make people’s dream homes a reality.”
Maggie took over the Eighty Four, Pa.-based company from her father in 1992 when she was just 26 years old. Being in a male-dominated industry, she knew that her name alone wouldn’t garner respect from her peers and associates. She had to earn it.
“I firmly believe that if you treat others with dignity and respect, you will be rewarded in your career and in life. I follow that direction day in and day out,” she says.
It wasn’t long before Maggie established herself as a natural leader. One of her first strategic moves was to reposition 84 Lumber from a retail-focused operation to a more builder-centric enterprise. That decision helped the company reach $1 billion in annual sales for the first time in 1993. The company still thrives in the retail space — it has nearly 250 stores in more than 30 states — but most of its customers are large professional builders.
The company’s vast offering of brand-name products and services makes it a go-to resource for builders, as well as commercial contractors, remodelers, developers and do-it-yourselfers. But the approach it takes with customers is what helps 84 Lumber remain a leader in this market. Many stores have a lot of repeat business from builders, especially family companies that pass their work from generation to generation. The company primarily attributes this to the people who both staff the stores and uphold its dedication to quality and service.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my associates,” Maggie says. “I’m truly grateful for the unique team that we have and for their dedication to making 84 a business that has thrived for more than 60 years. So many of our customers come back to us because of our people and the tremendous service they provide.”
A strong culture and a service-minded team of associates allow 84 Lumber to continually meet customers’ needs in numerous ways. In an ongoing manner, the company strives to bring in new products and services to ensure that customers remain competitive in their market. As a result, even though its name is 84 Lumber, the company provides far more than building materials.
“While building materials will always be the core of our business, we’ve evolved over the years to give our customers more offerings such as installation services, custom millwork capabilities, and kitchen and bath design expertise,” Maggie says.
The company’s millwork shops are dedicated to premium work. Focused on delivering hardwood and custom millwork services, the shops combine high-tech equipment with hands-on, experienced craftsmen who produce one-of-a-kind products, employing a “if you can draw it, we can build it” attitude. While there is almost always a very short lead time because contractors need to keep their projects moving, 84 Lumber responds with its vast experience in the industry. The millwork shops have the skills and expertise to deliver in accordance to the high levels of quality and tight schedules that builders require.
84 Lumber also has more than 30 Kitchen and Bath Design 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 ideas to life. 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 will work with the client to move design elements around to see other options. The custom millwork shops also have done a lot to enhance what the Design Studios can offer.
Installation is another essential focus for the business. 84 Lumber hires highly skilled crews that adhere to strict safety standards and are trained in the most current, manufacturer-recommended installation procedures.
“More builders need help with installation,” Maggie notes. “In recent years, we’ve supplied labor and materials to make it easier for builders to complete their projects on time. We’re also using technology within our installation program to streamline processes, enhance customer service and improve communication with customers and associates.”
Maggie explains that the company’s ongoing investments in technology are rare for the industry, but they are showing positive returns for 84 Lumber. “We hired Paul Yater, our first chief information officer, in 2017,” she says. “For two years, Paul and his team have been updating our technological landscape to make processes and operations more efficient. These changes help our associates provide better service and solutions to our customers.”
The company has been working with key customers in certain markets to integrate customers’ ordering systems with its own operational execution system to help streamline orders. It also upgraded every server in all stores last year, enabling associates to find information for customers much faster.
The technological improvements also have made scheduling easier for 84 Lumber’s installation services. They’ve also helped the company improve visibility and add a mobile focus to support field-based workers.
“84 has always been a privately held company, meaning we don’t answer to shareholders,” Maggie says. “That allows us to have more flexibility in developing policies, processes and initiatives that benefit our customers and associates.”
Hard Work and Longevity
Going forward, Maggie wants to keep 84 Lumber privately held so that it always offers the best solutions for associates, customers and vendors. The company continues to seek out vendors that are innovative, maintain high product and service standards, and are committed to 84 Lumber’s customers and associates. Additionally, the business plans to continue expanding on a national scale and investing in ways that will make it more competitive and effective.
In the past several years, 84 Lumber has grown in some of its core markets by opening new locations in San Antonio; Tampa Bay, Fla.; and Greensboro, S.C. The company has also branched out into new markets such as Boston and West Palm Beach, Fla., and plans to enhance its presence on the West Coast under new Divisional Vice President Jorge Espinoza. Overall, Maggie wants 84 Lumber to maintain its strong reputation and use that for continued growth.
“Longevity is one of the first things that comes to mind when people think of 84,” she says. “My dad founded the company in 1956. The fact that we’ve been around for more than 60 years says something about us. We’ve seen it all; been through it all. When I took over the business, I quickly learned how hardworking and committed our associates are. That’s still true today. I love that we’re still a local, family business that many people have been going to for years or even decades.”
“Our goal is always to get there first,” she continues. “If that means getting up before dawn to prepare loads and make deliveries, we’ll do it. Our employees love the work they do and what it means to people. We have been building the American dream since the beginning and will continue doing that for years to come.”
SIDEBAR – In the Community
84 Lumber is dedicated to demonstrating the care it has for its associates and customers, but this care also extends into its communities. Last October, the company took several steps to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including:
* Designing special T-shirts and selling them to associates, with all proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society
* Turning its logo pink on all digital channels for the month
* Donating more than two dozen care baskets to breast cancer patients at Canonsburg Hospital near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Company President Maggie Hardy also made a personal donation of $10,000 to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hillman Cancer Center.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the causes and communities that 84 Lumber supports. In the past year, the company’s community work has included:
* Raising $10,000 for ACHIEVA, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that supports those with disabilities. The organization had offered services to brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal before they were tragically killed in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill, Pa., last fall;
* Associates working with the public to fill an entire school bus with toys for the Marine Toys for Tots program;
* Donating $10,000 to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Florence, as well as providing $500 to Religious Community Services in New Bern, N.C., and partnering with BLS Trucking to donate a 53-foot-long tractor trailer for the collection and transport of water, clothing, cleaning supplies, dog food and other necessities to New Bern after the storm;
* Conducting its Operation Appreciation contest for the third straight year, which awarded an $8,400 store credit to four military members or families in need.
“I’ve always had a desire to give back to the communities where 84 has established roots,” Maggie says. “That mentality is also shared by associates across the country. It’s important that we do what we can to support the areas where we live and work, and ensure that those in need are taken care of.”