The Clem Lumber and Distributing Company
Jim McAllister, vice president of The Clem Lumber and Distributing Company (Clem Lumber), says keeping things simple works for the Ohio-based building supplier. “We’re really not that exciting –we’re actually kind of vanilla,” he jokes. “We just try to make the process go smoothly and easily for our customers. We keep things simple, stay with what we know and it works.”
And it’s worked that way for over 65 years. In 1948, the company was founded by two brothers, Bill and Ross Clem. “Bill ran one division and Ross ran the other,” shares Jim. “The Cincinnati location eventually shut down and everybody came north, but like most families, they fought and Bill left to open another company and Ross stayed in the lumber business.”
Since then Clem Lumber has been serving consumer and contractor lumber yards, hardware stores and floor covering retailers. “We’re a regional wholesale company,” explains Jim. “We started out as a true lumber wholesaler but over the last 30 years we’ve turned into a specialty wholesaler.”
The company supplies an extensive variety of building products through four divisions; millwork, hardwood floor, commercial doors and boxed goods. “We’re very service oriented,” adds Jim. “We provide a pretty basic product and service so we understand that to make us desirable we need to bring something more to the pie.”
Today, Clem Lumber is based in Alliance, Ohio and primarily serves its home state with 80,000 square feet of warehouse space. “We’re not too big- we have about 55 employees- so we just do our own thing,” adds Jim. “We’ll reach into Michigan, Indiana and West Virginia on occasion as well.”
Specialty Wholesale with Personal Attention
Over the years, as Clem Lumber has transitioned from broader wholesale to specific building supplies and the company has been able to offer more specialized products. “Our millwork division and door house is what we really specialize in and do well,” notes Jim.
Clem Lumber offers Woodport and Craft Master interior doors ranging from molded doors to French doors, pantry doors to bifold doors and also hinges, jambs, pocket door frames and stile and rail doors. From the door to the floor, Clem Lumber also supplies a wide range of exotic flooring, including African Pearwood, Brazilian Cherry and Oak, Goldenwood, Canarywood, Merbau, Patagonian Rosewood and Tiete Rosewood, all in a variety of stains and finishes.
Clem Lumber also offers a wide range of exterior products from Cedar shingles to handsplits and splitstop screws, garage door stop, mineral fiber siding, barn wrap, poly film and much more. The company has roofing needs covered as well with air vents, roof edge and W-Form Valley products and even Green Generation Shingles.
“Our knowledgeable customer service staff can assist you with the technical information, installation instruction and personal attention the selection process requires,” shares Jim. “We try to make things as easy as possible for the customer; we treat them right and they treat us right in return.”
Making a Comeback
Jim, who’s been with Clem Lumber since 1975, says the company has struggled just like many others in the region. “It’s been difficult in the Midwest and Ohio over the last six-or-so years,” he notes. “Most people aren’t even close to where they were in 2006, but last year we finally saw some growth. I think people just want stability back.”
Jim also says government interference and regulations put pressure on Clem Lumber’s business. “From HASCOM to the EPA, we’re constantly dealing with regulations and it takes a lot of our time,” he says. “I think the housing market would be better off if there was less government red tape.”
Jim has seen his share of challenges after being with the company for a 38-year run. “I started out working here in the summers,” he recalls. “I actually graduated from Ohio State with a biology degree and was unemployed for some time until they offered me a job at Clem Lumber. I thought I’d do it for a year, then a year turned into two, two turned into three and it kind of got away from me.”
But Jim wouldn’t have it any other way. When he’s not managing customer relations and sales at Clem Lumber, Jim is an enthusiastic world traveler. He’s been around the world, from Western Europe to China and Thailand. “I’m fascinating with seeing places and hearing about what people do,” he says.
After 65 years, Clem Lumber continues to serve Ohio and portions of the Midwest with a range of quality, specialized building products. Through personal attention and years of experience, The Clem Lumber and Distributing Company has become a go-to industry supplier.