Family-owned since the Depression, Lumbermen’s enters new phase of growth
Back before the recession — before the financial crisis, the housing market crash, the near disappearance of new construction — Jeff Funk of Lumbermen’s took a rosy view of the future. “It looked like life was going to be golden forever,” he said.
His father, Dale Funk, took a different perspective. Dale had seen good times and bad in his years with the family-owned company, which serves builders, landscapers, developers, and homeowners. For the elder Funk, it wasn’t a matter of if the boom years would eventually end, but when.
That long-term perspective has helped Lumbermen’s weather many economic ups and downs over its 82-year history. Today, as the company expands once again, president Jeff Funk draws lessons from four generations of family members who went before him. The modern Lumbermen’s is lean, efficient, and growing. Jeff takes his family’s history with him as he steers the family company forward.
Depression-era success story
Lumbermen’s was founded in the midst of the Great Depression by Chelsey Cain, Jeff Funk’s great-grandfather. Cain and a partner opened an office in 1932 in today’s Old Market. Lumbermen’s has never been a lumberyard. Instead, it existed to supply the men who worked the lumberyard — hence the name.
Cain leveraged proximity to the Missouri River to transport hardware, wire goods, fasteners, brick, and more to surrounding areas. He built close personal relationships with lumberyard owners in neighboring communities, a key to his success, Jeff said.
The office later moved to South 15th St. In the 1960s, Lumbermen’s moved further west to 67th and L streets, following the path of new construction westward. Over time, the company began specializing in products and services for residential and commercial construction. In the ’70s, Lumbermen’s acquired a natural stone business, adding another facet to its operations. The company also began to delve into new territory.
“Over the years, we’ve started to establish our niche in specialty products,” stated Jeff.
Some of those specialty items have fallen by the wayside, like the extra-large satellite dishes of the ’80s. Fireplaces, however, have proved a mainstay even 30 years later.
The company moved to its current location on Industrial Road in 1994. Additional locations sprouted in Grand Island, Lincoln, and in Iowa. The modern Lumbermen’s is focused on offering new, emerging products to rural and urban communities in Nebraska and Iowa.
Fireplace, Stone and Patio
In mid-September, Lumbermen’s is set to unveil its renovated showroom and its new name: Fireplace, Stone and Patio. The upgraded space will give customers an opportunity to peruse hot-right-now products and gather ideas for their own home.
A new fireplace gallery will display multiple designs, finishes, and styles, from modern fireplaces with color-changing LED lights to the traditional log. With turnkey units, giving the fireplace a facelift may be easier than expected. An updated fireplace tends to hold its value — homeowners will likely see a return on their investment when it comes time to sell the home, Jeff explained. “When you put in a new fireplace and show off your home to friends and neighbors, there’s a big wow factor there,” he added.
As families have started to embrace their backyards, outdoor living products have grown in number and variety in the showroom. The company offers high-end outdoor furniture, North American-made grills, and other niche products to transform an ordinary backyard into a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Staff members have a passion for outdoor grilling and entertaining, lending their personal experience to the sales floor. “It’s a lot of fun to sell and show that product,” mentioned Jeff.
To keep up with growth, Lumbermen’s is adding workers again after shedding staff through attrition during the recession. It’s a good feeling for Jeff, who has been a part of the family business ever since he was old enough to work.
With the new showroom and identity, Jeff hopes more people will get to know the company beyond wondering whether it sells lumber. “Now when we do that 30-second spot, people will know what we do,” he said.
Stone and Patio
13709 Industrial Road