Contractors Building Supply marks 20 years

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times John Hughes, a store manager with Contractors Building Supply, checks a purchase for electrical contractor John Mackey on Wednesday morning. The store, moving into its 21st year in business, is promoting awareness that it sells to the general public as well as contractors.

Brightly lit and spacious, the Contractors Building Supply store on Marietta’s east side offers a quiet and well-stocked experience for professional builders or do-it-yourself enthusiasts.

The entry, with coffee available on a table left of the door, gives way to a designer showroom with sparkling glass and elegantly tiled bath and kitchen sample rooms, living areas with floor covering ideas and wall, window and paint treatments.

The family-owned business marks its 20th year in January, competing with big box outfits and keeping a loyal base of contractors, subcontractors, builders, specialty trades artisans and ordinary around-the-house handy people.

The business started when John Gillard and Paul Bertram decided to buy Moore’s Lumber Yard on Greene Street after the company closed in 1997. They completed the purchase in January 1998.

Since then, Contractors Building Supply has been a family-run business seeking to be a primary supplier of building materials to the construction industry in the Marietta area, Jill Wright said.

Wright, one of the store managers and the daughter of founder John Gillard, said she grew up surrounded by the environment of the building trades.

“Dad was a contractor. I grew up in this industry, and it was a lot of fun,” she said.

The list of products and materials the store sells is as long as the shopping list for building a house or a commercial building, from foundation materials to roofing and exterior finishes to interior design. The business employs 14 people, many of whom, Wright said, have been with them the entire 20 years of operation.

“It’s a really good staff, lots of knowledge among them,” Wright said.

The business is part of the Do It Best network of stores, a cooperative based in Fort Wayne, Ind., that includes 4,000 stores. The co-op , with $671 million in net income in 2016, is the second largest firm of its kind in the country, with Ace Hardware first and True Value third. Wright said there are many advantages to being a member of the network, including volume buying and access to market trend information.

“It gives us purchasing power, helps notify us about trends, pending shortages or market pressures, and it helps us access a wide range of materials and products,” she said.

The company has two outside sales reps who monitor building activity around the area and watch for opportunities to provide services and supplies, she said. Customers can pick up orders at the store or have them delivered.

In addition to serving contractors, the store will continue to market itself as a place where individual members of the public — do-it-yourselfers and people who want to renovate their homes — feel comfortable shopping, whether for small items or major investments such as new bathrooms or kitchens, Wright said. With the number of old houses being restored or repaired in the Marietta area, she said, specialty items that are difficult to find have become a significant part of the business.

“We’re pretty fortunate, we have a wide range of resources, and special orders are a good part of our business,” she said. “With old houses, we get unusual requests. A lot of people come in trying to match old millwork and trim, like crown moldings and baseboards. We love a good challenge.”

The services now include rental of exotic tools. With advances in technology, Wright said, rental is a good option for expensive tools that even a contractor would use only once or twice a year.

The building also offers a drive-through covered storage area for picking up large orders of bulk goods such as plywood and concrete.

And for interiors, the store has three designers on staff for free consultations on materials and layout, she said.

Chip Ditchendorf, a building contractor in Marietta who specializes in structural repair and renovation, has been doing business with the Contractors Building Supply crew for 25 years, going back to the time when some of the staff worked for Moore’s, he said.

“Having them there for specialty orders, the kind of thing you can’t get at a regular box store, really helps me with my work,” he said.

“The people there are knowledgeable, and in a nutshell that’s why I shop there: quality materials and expertise.”

Ditchendorf said the store is an exceptional resource for a city the size of Marietta, whose claim to fame, he said with a laugh, is “two hours from everything.”

“It’s nice not to have to go to Columbus,” he said.

“It’s just consistency,” he said. “It’s a consistent resource for me. The materials are always exceptional, even the guys in the yard help us hand-pick stuff. You get a little more attention to detail.”

Being in business 20 years, he said, “is quite an accomplishment these days. None of that ‘under new management.’ They’re part of my work family.”

Wright’s oldest son, Chance Wright, 22, is involved in the family business, extending it into a third generation.

He is in charge of accounts receivable and payable, as well as advertising and marketing.

The store is marking its 20th anniversary by offering giveaways every Friday in January.

“No purchase required,” Wright said.