EL & EL Wood Products Corp.
Providing high-value, quality millwork products since 1966, EL & EL Wood Products Corp. is a leading supplier of molding and doors serving customers in the western United States. Ben Lynch and Frank Lindy originally established the business, which is now headquartered in Chino, California. While they had hoped to name the company “L & L Wood Products”, another business in the region had a similar name. Through some creative marketing ingenuity, they settled for the next best thing – EL & EL.
Only a few months after EL & EL opened its doors, Robert Ward joined the business. He eventually bought out the founders in 1967 and passed leadership of EL & EL to his daughter, Cathy Vidas, in 1991.
“There are a few things that set us apart in our market,” explains Vidas, president of EL & EL. “The first is the diversity of our product line. The second, and most important, is our dedication to service. That goes beyond just having the knowledge about a product in our inventory but also maintaining a large inventory to ensure service. Over the next year, EL & EL will morph into the technological aspects as well with both warehousing and customer’s ability to see through the internet real time information such as inventory levels, invoices, signed receivers and eta’s of the day’s scheduled deliveries.
A strong and growing market share
EL & EL has established a niche in providing market-demanded products. As consumer needs evolve, the company stays in tune with trends and new products, while maintaining all of the classics that people still want. Vidas says her team’s greatest key performance indicator is the satisfaction of customers and the whole crew is onboard to prioritize service and selection.
With more than 300 employees, EL & EL operates from two locations in California – one in the north and another in the south. While a majority of the company’s distribution is within the state, the team also serves customers in Nevada and Arizona. “Typically our customers are door shops that supply new construction and work closely with builders, window and door shops, and independent lumber yards or chains that compete with the big box stores,” says Vidas. “We do not distribute to the big box chain retailers unless on a special order basis.”
While the existing locations have been able to efficiently serve customers, EL & EL is expanding to make room for more business and more inventory. “We’re in the process of completing a 220,000-square-foot distribution center in Galt, California,” Vidas notes. “It really is state-of-the-art. We are utilizing the latest in technology to tie our locations together. We now use video conferencing, which has made a huge difference. We have the ability to hold meetings in each locations conference room and seeing the other facility and each other as if we are in the same room. While we only have two locations right now, this development has allowed us to operate as one, which is something we always wanted.”
Rolling with the changes
EL & EL has managed to stay ahead of the curve in several ways over the years. Approaching 50 years in business, the company has long been a pioneer in both technology and in providing innovative products. EL & EL was one of the first in the wood products supply market to adopt a computerized method using a Radio Shack computer and a hired programmer in 1981. A portion of that program design has become a standard in millwork inventory design today.
The company was one of the first medium density fiberboard (MDF) importers to commit 100 percent of its profile line to ultra light and offshore products. “This was back in the late ’90s or early 2000s,” Vidas recounts. “It was a big risk for us but it turned out to be a home run. Everybody wanted it, it is easy to install, it paints beautifully and the quality is different from anything the U.S. or Canada produced.”
MDF, particularly the ultralight variety, has a number of benefits over traditional wood products. This high quality material allows significantly more decorative millwork to be affordable to a greater target market – a factor that has boosted EL & EL’s market share over the last two decades.
As demand grew for these products, EL & EL excelled. “Most other suppliers were bringing in a few casings, crowns and bases – not like we did,” Vidas continues. “We brought in 300 profiles, all designs that had never been seen before in our market. This vast array of MDF products has become a mainstay of the business as it exists today. It was not an easy business decision, but it made a big difference in how our company developed over time and the affordability of beautiful millwork in all price levels of housing.”
Success through building relationships
While Vidas notes that there are not frequently new products in the molding world today, she and her team remain dedicated to maintaining and expanding variety. “We work with a great set of core suppliers,” she explains. “We always have to keep our eyes and ears open to new products and to provide our customers with access to new trends. Our relationships with both our customers and our suppliers are very valuable and important to us always.”
Customer relationships remain the main focus of the operation, although there are other important participants in the company’s success: employees. “Our staff, some of the best and brightest in the industry, includes; Kip McCleary, general manager of our southern California operation, Joe Morin, vice president of sales and Paul Conley, vice president of our door division,” says Vidas. “Together they have many years of experience in our industry. Our employees are dedicated and caring; people who make EL & EL a special place.”
“Our team works hard to support our mission and growth,” Vidas continues. “This is a family business, but that extends beyond ownership. We take a lot of pride in supporting our employees. We want them to have good jobs and be able to support their families and not have to worry about job security. With a staff of 300, we have over 20 different families within our group. There are parents who work for us whose children now work here as well. This is truly a family business in every sense of the word.”
Within her own family, Vidas is proud to announce that her nephew, Lincoln Orellana III, is actively involved in the company. “It is really great to know that we have a younger generation invested in what we do here,” she says. “I feel great about passing the reins to the next generation.”
With a solid contingency plan in place, EL & EL Wood Products Corp. is set up to continue providing the high level of service and large inventory of quality products that have driven the company’s success for nearly 50 years.
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