Not Even Tornado Can Slow Down Burt’s Lumber

I love House-Hasson. They are sweet people and everyone is happy to follow through a request to a positive result.

Sometimes you get lucky, is the way Bob Burt looks at it. Burt, the owner of Burt’s Lumber & Building Supply in Perry, N.Y., was wrestling with a problem. He wanted to tear down one of his buildings and was having trouble finding out what permits he needed to acquire.

Then fate intervened and solved his problem. A fluke tornado popped up and struck the area in 2000. It bounced around causing destruction here and there, including a touchdown at Burt’s. “It destroyed just the building we were planning to tear down, and nothing else. It was the strangest thing,” Burt recalls.

Here is where the story takes an even odder twist. A year before the tornado struck, Burt was given a painting by a friend that depicted a funnel cloud descending onto his store. It hangs on his office wall as a constant reminder of how strange fate can be.

A decade later and Burt is thankful about another development that has turned out for the good—switching over to House-Hasson about two years ago. He used to buy from Bostwick-Braun, but when his salesman, Bob Malafarina, joined House-Hasson, Burt was quick to follow.

“I love House-Hasson. They are sweet people and everyone is happy to follow through a request to a positive result,” he says. Burt is especially fond of Jerry, the gospel-singing truck driver who delivers his products each week. “He’s terrific and a lot of fun to be around.”

He gives House-Hasson high marks for having a larger product mix than his former supplier, and he has helped the company further expand its assortment by suggesting products that make sense for the northern market. “They’re stocking items we needed at our request,” he says, adding that fill rates are real good despite the challenges of digesting all the new business from Moore-Handley.

Burt’s father started the business as a cabinet shop in 1950, then opened a lumberyard across the street in 1955. The business moved to its current building in 1972. His 91-year-old mother still comes into the store six days a week as a way to stay busy and his sister, Judy Phillips, helps him run the business.

“I’ve been here 56 years—this is all I’ve done,” says Burt. While he enjoys serving the community, he admits the ever-increasing amount of rules and regulations mandated by the government can be a burden.

He keeps the business strong by always looking for new opportunities. Burt started a spray foam insulation business on the side three years ago that has proved to be a great success. He has also started filling propane tanks and recently began offering major appliances and kitchen cabinets.

Plumbing and heating products are the top-selling categories—they sell a ton of water heaters—and Burt’s Lumber captures 30 percent of its business from pros. The area is filled with big farms, which guarantees regular purchases from farmers because something is always breaking down and needing repair. “Most people around here do the work themselves to save money,” Burt points out, adding that the housing market is stable with few foreclosures.

He competes with a number of other independent yards within 20 miles, plus faces big boxes in Batavia and Cornell. Burt does price shopping by phone on LBM products and finds he needs to raise prices constantly because the boxes are often 40 to 50 percent higher on blind items. “I’m priced where I have to be. Fine-tuning prices is the biggest part of owning a business,” he says, adding that adopting House-Hasson’s Priced Right Everyday!® program has helped his price image in the market.

Burt has attended all the House-Hasson markets since signing on with the wholesaler. He finds that he is able to come away with a net gain by participating in the travel rewards program.

“It’s a big show and they’ve got a lot of merchandise to see, with great specials and dating,” he says. “And everybody’s so nice, from the vendors and House-Hasson to the other dealers.”

House-Hasson helped him retag the store, although he handled the repricing himself. When business slows during the long winter months he likes to move products around the store and further tinker with his prices. “You’ve got to keep things fresh,” is the way Burt explains it.

While he values the service and support he gets from House-Hasson, Burt credits his staff of 13 employees (nine during the off-season) as the real reason for his lasting success. Many are long-time employees, who know all the customers by name. “Their dedication is what makes it all go. I couldn’t do it without them,” he says.

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