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Hundman Lumber: Something Old and Something New, a Perfect Fit for Lincoln

By Mike Fak

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[January 17, 2008]  When I heard the news that Mitchell-Newhouse Lumber Company had in fact been sold, I was concerned. After all, it had been my lumberyard for the last 25 years. Like an old pair of shoes or that tattered flannel shirt, the lumberyard was always a comfortable fit for my contracting and personal home needs since the first year I moved to Lincoln.

I felt my concern dissipate when I had a chance to hear from Norm and Spud Newhouse that the sale was a good thing, not only for them and their brother David but for the community as well. Norm and David Newhouse have recently both retired, but you wouldn't think so to see them so often around the store, squaring away some loose end or chatting with decades-old customers. Spud, the youngest of the brothers, still has a few years left before he sells his last two-by-four.

The three brothers who have made the lumberyard their life's work and passion feel so comfortable with the changeover that it is impossible for a customer, even one so set in his ways, to not feel relief in the fact that Hundman Lumber is the purchaser of their business.

Norm, relaxing back in his chair, made me more at ease when he told me Hundman, although a large, eight-store lumber chain, was family-owned and operated. He advised me nothing dramatic would change about the way the business would be run except for the benefits being part of a large lumberyard chain would mean to customers.

Spud was almost ecstatic when he explained the benefits of being part of the Hundman chain. "I can buy products from one of the other Hundman locations cheaper than I sometimes can through my suppliers," he said. "That's because Hundman buys in such quantities that we could never get the wholesale prices they get." Spud also wanted to point out that "if we don't have something, we can get it quickly from one of the other stores and don't have the same time delays as our ordering from the manufacturer."

"Hundman has their own truss plant, countertop company, door-hanging plant and prefabricated walls division, which means we don't have to wait on outside sources to get around to filling our order."

Spud also wanted it known that Hundman's central office in Bloomington has a full-time buyer who can shop around on prices for lumber and commodities on a spec sheet for a major project or home build, thus freeing him to spend more time with customers. He said, "They can get prices on some things I never dreamed of getting." Spud beamed as we visited.

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Dianna Newhouse, herself 20 years at the lumberyard, pointed out several other benefits to Hundman. "We have a boom truck now that can deliver shingles and plywood to the top of a house much easier and quicker than before," she said. "We are also still a Do-It merchandiser, so customers won't see any of their favorite products disappearing from the shelves."

Spud wanted to interject what he thought was a very important point. "Hundman believes in doing everything locally," he said. "We are supplying a great deal of materials to the new Hampton Inn project on the west side. Hundman could have just done that from their main store in Bloomington, but instead everything is being run through here. That's a huge sale for this store."

If all this information wasn't enough good news to a pair of old ears, seeing an old fellow contractor, Randy Washam, now manning the front desk told me I would still be in good hands if Spud and Dianna were busy. Randy brings the knowledge and understanding that is so important to a lumberyard. It is that principle of "been there, done that and had that happen to me" that always made Mitchell-Newhouse stand apart from the giant box stores with untrained clerks.

In Lincoln we now have the best of two worlds: the prices offered from a large chain retailer with the friendly, knowledgeable staff to help us through those perplexing repair and remodeling concerns.

I think I will go put my old shoes and flannel shirt on and relax a little tonight. I and the rest of Logan County are in good hands. Norm and David, I wish you the very best. Spud and Dianna, I will see you soon. Keep the popcorn popper full. It's still the best snack in town.

[By Mike Fak]

Watch for more of Mike's works exclusively at LDN.

Readers can find more of Mike Fak's writing at www.searchwarp.com and www.problogs.com.

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