Case Studies

Newman Lumber Company

A Family-owned Purveyor of High-end wood Products

In 1947 Roy Newman founded Newman Lumber Company (NLC) based in Gulfport, MS. After serving the military in World War II, Roy found his way to Honduras and worked with a logging company harvesting mahogany wood. After seven years in the industry there, he returned to the United States. With his experience and familiarity with the fine wood, Roy was determined to make a living in the wood business; therefore, he began by working as a liaison between loggers abroad and furniture plants in the U.S. As he realized the market opportunity, the business grew.

Roy has proudly passed NLC down to the next generation. Doug Newman, president of NLC, Roianne Newman Gutierrez, CFO, as well as Cindy Newman, CEO, now lead the company’s team of approximately 20 people, serving clients across the country. “We have heritage, history and a quality product,” Cindy explains, who has been with the company full-time since 1992 when she started working with her father. “That’s what makes me proud to come to work here every day.”

High-end Products

Over the years, the business has diversified and now offers a range of different woods. However, mahogany continues to lead the way in NLC’s line of fine wood products. Clients can purchase genuine mahogany, Mara Macho, Spanish cedar, Sapele, Santos mahogany, Peruvian walnut, Jatoba and Cerejeira; these South American and African hardwoods are popular for dark, rich coloring and durability. The team kiln-dries all product to ensure wood is seasoned perfectly for each application.

The business’ clients include high-end homebuilders, as well as commercial builders. Flexibility in products and applications allowed the business to thrive throughout the recession.

“During the recession, people moved away from higher-end mahogany,” explains Doug. “They were looking for cheaper alternatives. Now the trend is moving back to genuine mahogany. Things have gotten a lot better. In 2008 through 2010, people wouldn’t pay the freight or storage if you gave them genuine mahogany for free. Things are normalizing to where supply and demand have come more into equilibrium.”

During the downturn, Spanish cedar took over as NLC’s dominant product. As builders and clients gain confidence in the economy, trends have turned back toward higher-end products. With mahogany making a comeback, the business is in a pattern of growth.

“Things are getting better, although the economy is still not where it should be,” Cindy notes. “We are looking at growth in the coming years throughout the gradual recovery period.”

Making Connections

Long-term partnerships have supported NLC since the beginning. The team makes every effort to build lasting relationships with suppliers, as well as with other strategic partners. “We have a core group of suppliers and we are constantly on the outlook for new sources,” Doug elaborates. “We value our relationships, but things happen. In order to expand our marketplace, we have to be able to keep up our inventory. People get sick, companies go broke and people quit. We have to be able to maintain a supply chain.”

NLC is part of a distributor network, working to bring in materials, as well as sell products. The company purchases hardwood from select suppliers and sells to builders and distributors, as well as manufacturers; many products go into doors, windows and cabinets. “It’s cool to see where our product goes,” Doug adds. “We have a fascinating job and we sell our product to some major manufacturers.”

The company is also quite involved in the International Wood Products Association (IWPA). “We have been members for 25 to 30 years,” says Cindy, who is also the president of IWPA. “The greatest benefit is that we can make connections with other people involved in our industry. The association also keeps us abreast of changes in legislation and regulations. If we have an issue, we can call and get help.”

These connections have made the business strong, and also allowed the Newman family and its employees to grow NLC into a national wholesaler. Access to product and support creates an environment that fosters relationships with customers. “Our biggest performance indicator is customer response,” Cindy explains. “We aim to provide great service. Return customers and getting referrals lets us know that what we do is working.”

While repeat business is high, the team is always looking to recruit new clients. NLC has a strong reputation for being able to turn around high-quality inventory in a timely manner. With a diverse line of products and still more diverse customers, the company has established stability. For more than 65 years, the Newman family has been providing reliable service and unique, high-end wood products.

As a family business, decisions come together quickly. The small operation allows for flexibility, a trait that has carried NLC through several economic ups and downs. With variety, integrity and quality, the team is looking ahead to an upward trend in the building industry. The second generation operators of Newman Lumber Company are carrying forward a strong legacy.

Published on: July 9, 2014

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