Case Studies

Chelsea Lumber Company

More than a century of family-owned and -operated lumber supply

Chelsea Lumber Company has been a local staple of its community for more than a century. Headquartered in Chelsea, Michigan, Chelsea Lumber is one of the oldest and largest lumber and building supply companies in the state. With its recent acquisition of two facilities in Saline and Bridgewater, Michigan, the company manages three locations with approximately 140 employees.

Working with building contractors and homeowners, Chelsea Lumber serves all of Washtenaw County and southeast Michigan. “What differentiates us from other supply companies is that we are a complete home center,” says John Daniels, president of Chelsea Lumber. “We work with contractors and homeowners that are do-it-yourselfers.’”

A rich history

Founded in 1908 as Chelsea Lumber, Grain & Coal Co., Chelsea Lumber has been owned in all or in part by the Daniels family since the 1920s. “My father, Robert Daniels was the president of the company before me and worked here for 56 years,” says Daniels. “He started with the company working part time, shoveling coal while still in high school in the 1940s.” Daniels has been with Chelsea Lumber full time for 33 years. Starting with the company at the age of 15, he worked on the weekends and during summer vacations from school until officially joining the company at the age of 22.

From the inception of the company, Chelsea Lumber has taken pride in the experience it provides not only for its customers, but also for its workers. This approach to business has allowed the company to maintain a very low turnover rate when it comes to employees. “Throughout our three locations there are numerous employees that have been with us for more than 20 years,” Daniels explains. “Our people have a lot of experience and knowledge that customers might not receive at one of the bigger box store chains.” Daniels has found that the experience and knowledge of his associates is very beneficial to homeowners who are taking on projects by themselves. Chelsea Lumber is able to act as a consultant to a client that may initially feel overwhelmed when completing a project on his/her own, as opposed to hiring a contractor.

The experience and knowledge of the Chelsea Lumber team is also beneficial when dealing with its contractor clients. “The service aspect of our business is extremely important to us,” says Daniels. “It’s crucial that we make all of our deliveries on time for our contractors because we are helping their business be successful. If they need a delivery for 7:30 the next morning, then we will be there at 7:15.”

Gaining an edge

In such a competitive industry, Chelsea Lumber is able to offer its clients a #1 grade pressure treated lumber at a competitive price while many other suppliers offer a #2 grade. “We also have a premium grade in our dimensional lumber inventory,” says Daniels. “We have a #2 standard that all lumber companies have but we are one of the very few that carry a premium grade in the dimensional lumber.”

Since the recession, the Michigan construction industry has steadily rebounded while Chelsea Lumber has been able to maintain pace with the market. With sales and profitability increasing annually, the company has managed to sustain a period of controlled growth, which has enabled Chelsea Lumber to continue to serve its clients with the utmost quality it has become known for. “We continue to keep things simple and do things effectively and efficiently,” says Daniels. “That is what works and what has sustained our success even through tough economic times.”

While working with numerous vendors, the business practices and philosophies implemented by Chelsea Lumber have generated long-lasting relationships, which remain extremely valuable to the company. Solid relationships generate loyalty, trust and a smooth operation for all those involved and Chelsea Lumber recognizes the importance of transparency in strategic partnerships.

In maintaining a steady workflow through the ups and downs of the economy, Daniels says that the employees of Chelsea Lumber are the reason for the company to not only survive but even thrive through tough times. “I think it is very important to let it be known to your employees that their ideas and visions are welcome in regards to what the company can do and where it can go,” shares Jon. “We want all of our employees to reach their full potential and that happens when you allow them to open up and share their ideas. It really creates a great environment and a great business.”

With strong vendor relations and knowledgeable employees, Chelsea Lumber Company remains an industry leader in the Midwest.

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Spring 2018



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