Case Studies

Hamshaw Lumber Inc.

35 years of retail and professional lumber supply

In 1980 Doug Hamshaw decided to buy out a small bankrupt lumber company in Keene, New Hampshire, and Hamshaw Lumber Inc. was born. Since then, the company has been providing high-quality building supplies to a mixed market of agricultural, retail and professional customers. “We’re certainly not in a traditional agricultural area but there are definitely elements of the ag-industry here,” says Hamshaw. “About 7 percent of our business is ag related, while 5 percent is industrial supply. Retail comprises 35 percent with the rest being industrial builders.”

Getting started

Originally from New York, Hamshaw began his career managing a lumber yard in Long Island. After spending three years as a lumber supplier, Hamshaw relocated to New Hampshire to run a children’s summer camp. “I did that for a few years and then started a family and decided it was time to invest in something, so I went with what I knew best,” says Hamshaw.

Purchasing the company was a risk, but Hamshaw was young and ambitious. “I did what is called a bulk sales transfer which isn’t even a part of the United States legal system anymore,” Hamshaw explains. “I offered all the vendors cents on the dollar because that was part of the deal of a bulk sales transfer; you have to get all the vendors to agree to transfer the company into your name without going through bankruptcy court. So I started with very little inventory and just built it up over time.”

For the next eight consecutive years Hamshaw Lumber would experience 40 percent growth and in 1988, the company opened a second lumber yard in Orange, Massachusetts.
In 1997 Hamshaw opened another outlet called The Cheshire Horse, an agricultural feed store. Starting out in a tiny building on Hamshaw’s property, The Cheshire Horse has now grown to a 25,000-square-foot facility. With a strong online presence, the store sells horse equipment all over the world, as well as feed and fencing. In 2012 a second location was opened in Saratoga Springs, New York.

A diversified company

Since the beginning, Hamshaw Lumber has insisted on balancing its market between retail and professional customers. Maximizing full service for both markets is an aspect that the lumber industry has shied away from in the past decade. “Most yards are either 80 percent retail or 80 percent professional,” Hamshaw explains. “Focusing on both certainly presents challenge. The rewarding aspect is that it enables us to keep our performance and results fairly steady.” The diversification the company has maintained has allowed its business model to stay intact, rather than reinventing the company as trends change.

As the company has grown, Hamshaw Lumber has continued to expand its services. “We’ve taken on doing the jobs that the builders aren’t that interested in doing,” says Hamshaw. “We have two highly specialized trucks that do the foam spraying insulation.” The addition of the Cheshire Horse has put the company in the top 2 percent of equine and feed stores in the country. “It has always been our business philosophy to service different markets and make sure that we’re doing all of those things at once, which can be a tough task at times but the benefits are worth it,” says Hamshaw..

Looking ahead

With an improving housing market in New England, Hamshaw is cautiously optimistic about the economic situation in the country. A fair amount of the residential market that Hamshaw Lumber supplies to is the multifamily sector. “Even when the single-family housing market was weak during the recession, the multifamily market was very strong for us,” says Hamshaw. “We already have three or four multifamily projects lined up this year.”

Hamshaw says that the fact the he has successfully run his business for 35 years is what gives him his biggest sense of pride. “That and the employees,” says Hamshaw. “We have about 12 employees who have been with us for 25-plus years. We do our best to take care of our workers and their families. We enjoy being involved in our community.”

While Hamshaw is happy with where his company is at, he is still looking to expand the operation with third lumber yard is in the works. The online presence of the Cheshire Horse has grown from its infant stage to providing five full-time jobs for online sales associates. “It’s growing at a phenomenal rate,” says Hamshaw. “We’re looking at building a separate fulfillment center.”

While the company continues to expand, Hamshaw Lumber Inc. will continue to be a leader in retail and professional services. 

Published on: September 30, 2015

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