East Coast Lumber & Building Supply Company Inc.
Peter Lewis grew up in the heart of farm country and quickly realized he was a born businessman, albeit not necessarily in agriculture. Instead, Lewis considered himself to be a happily frustrated farmer, so he established a construction company in 1958. Lewis’ company has since built over 1,100 single-family homes and 1,000 condominiums across southern New Hampshire.
Lewis struck again in 1976, founding East Coast Lumber & Building Supply Company Inc. (ECL) with the help of a business partner. The building material supply company helped Lewis secure the right volume and pricing to keep his previously established construction company booming for decades. The two business partners went separate ways in 1989, though Lewis’ drive and work ethic lives on through his daughter, Christine Lewis Morse.
Christine inherited her father’s independent spirit, growing up amongst the family businesses and venturing out to a job of her own in her teens. Ultimately, Christine found her way back to the family business with a job at the construction company, where she worked until 1989.
“At that point, my father and his business partner decided to part ways, just as the recession hit,” explains Christine, president and owner of ECL. Within her first eight months, the company closed down two of its three lumberyards and scaled back in every department to stay afloat. Christine’s trial-by-fire entrance at ECL only helped underscore her commitment to the family business and its customers.
“We realized very quickly that if we were going to make it through the recession, we needed to broaden our focus,” explains Christine. The Hampstead, N.H., headquarters and lumberyard became a full-service building material supply and home center by expanding its offerings with a gamut of building materials, including lumber and engineered wood products, doors, windows, kitchens, hardware, paints and more. The additional product selection allowed ECL to maintain its loyal contractor client following and to establish a new base of retail homeowner and renovation customers.
Growth came once again in 2000 when the company added ECL Rentals, an equipment sales, rental and service center adjacent to the lumberyard and home center. “The equipment sales and rentals component is now 12 years old,” says Christine. “Every year we keep growing.” The growth of the equipment center has been especially strong in the past few years as some of the equipment service centers in the area have had to shut down, allowing the company to further develop its service department.
Similarly, ECL broadened its reach by expanding into installed sales, which capitalizes on the Lewis family’s extensive expertise in construction. ECL provides drawings and preliminary designs for kitchens, bathrooms and decking projects. The company also employs a certified renovator, and the company works only with reputable renovation specialists in the area that are certified under the EPA Lead Safe Renovations Rule, ensuring every project is completed safely and securely.
In true Lewis family tradition, ECL stays ahead of the curve by keeping a sharp sales team on the lookout for new products and services to keep up in an ever-changing market. The team strategically utilizes a variety of platforms to put its name out there, including flyers, newsprint, cable, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and extensive websites to highlight promotions and new products. ECL’s flyer is available in both digital and print form, and the deals are available to both contractors and homeowners alike.
“We also began running a series of informational luncheons, where customers can come and learn about some of our new products and promotions and also cover any questions or concerns they may have,” adds Christine.
The one thing that the company doesn’t need to advertise is its excellence, as it speaks for itself. According to Christine, many of the company’s employees have over 20 years of industry experience. The company’s lunch-and-learn meetings are just as much opportunities to showcase ECL’s new products as they are means to exhibit the ECL team’s extensive knowledge. Some of the meetings are legal in nature, helping contractor customers clarify contractual concerns, while others are designed to help the homeowner tackle a major renovation project with or without outside help.
Building a New Generation
ECL has begun a push in 2012 to expand its digital presence and offer clients more services through the Internet. “We’re really making the push to go paperless in 2012, but we’re also in the process of setting up an online catalog and an account management center for our customers,” adds Christine.
Going paperless will help customers consolidate statements and account information, while also cutting down on ECL’s operating expenses. More importantly, though, the expanded digital presence will allow customers to purchase materials online, update accounts, pay bills and keep projects on track.
Otherwise Christine isn’t looking to begin any new business ventures. Upon her father’s passing in 2008, Christine inherited control of all four of Lewis’ successful enterprises: ECL, Lewis Builders, the Atkinson Resort & Country Club and Hampstead Area Water Company.
On top of it all Christine and her husband also manage an 80-acre farm with 34 head of cattle. “The key to any successful business is surrounding yourself with good people and our people are among the best,” asserts Christine.
The forum of companies owned by Christine Lewis Morse will continue to carry on Peter Lewis’ legacy of hard work and entrepreneurship, and East Coast Lumber & Building Supply Company Inc. will continue to shine as a beacon of professionalism and customer service for generations to come.
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