EASLEY — A love for the business and a concern for people helped produce 70 years of success for Dixie Lumber Company, the homegrown business’ president believes.
The company celebrated the milestone last week, inviting 200 long-time customers, vendors and their families to a party complete with a catered meal, live music and fun.
Building products from 13 vendors were on display, also, according the companies current president, Todd Merris.
Dixie Lumber is a community-focused business, owing to the ownership of Mack and C.E. Lawton, brother who knew the building supply business from a company in Greenville.
“Everybody knows Mack and his principals as a Christian man,” Merris said. The company is known for its support of youth organizations, scouting and local football.
The Lawton’s purchased Dixie Lumber in 1986. Prior to that, it had the heritage going back to founder Norman Hamilton, who started the company in 1943.
The company moved several times, going from an original location, a small building that is now a church, to the former Swirl Building to the current location in 1996.
“It has been along this same stretch of (Hwy.) 93 the entire time,” Merris said.
In 2006, Dixie Lumber became an ESOP, an employee owned corporation.
“Mack had seen the layoffs that went along with the sale of other companies. He didn’t want that to happen here,” Merris said.
Under employee ownership, Merris believes that he and other workers are invested in the way the business operates and the way it treats its customers.
“I wake up enjoying coming to work,” said 13-year veteran David Little. “It is a family-first kind of place.”
Even the vendors who truck in supplies see the difference, Little said.
“The truckers even like coming here,” he said.
Longtime customer Frank Glouse says he finds it a good place to do business as a contractor. He has been in the building industry since 1973 and has been buying from Dixie Lumber all that time.
Over its lifetime, Dixie Lumber has faced its share of challenges with building ups and downs.
The most difficult, Merris believes, is the 2006 crash of new construction starts. From one year to the next nationally, new starts fell more than 70 percent.
Although great advances have been made since then, new construction starts are not expected to be back at 2006 levels until 2016.
“It is a relationship business more than ever,” Merris said. “We are no longer order takers. We have to sell to builders,” he said. “That requires more product knowledge and greater attention to details.”
“We are partners with the builder,” he said.
The service extends to taking a set of construction drawings and calculating the supply needs for that structure.
“It could be a hand drawing,” Merris said. “We help figure out what the needs are.”