BEAVER LUMBER & PLUMBING
Shop Local: Conversations with Waurika business owners.
Week 1: Beaver Lumber and Plumbing
Want to know the secret to running a successful business? “It’s all about attitude and treating people like you want to be treated,” according to Darrell and Carolyn Beaver. They’ve owned Beaver Lumber and Plumbing, Inc. for more than 42 years. That’s all but 12 years of their 54 years of marriage. “Our customers and vendors are our friends. We know just about everyone who comes in on a regular basis and like to visit with each of them. It’s all about friendship and neighbors and getting to know people. Our customers are like family and that’s how we treat them,” Carolyn continued, “We also have incredible employees who love our customers as much as we do. They enjoy what they do and it shows. We have been fortunate to have always had great employees.”
Carolyn and Darrell have known each other since they met at Irving Elementary School a few decades ago. They were both in the third grade. Darrell had a mischievous twinkle in his eye when he said, “She asked me out on our first date.” Carolyn agreed. It was obvious, however, that there was more to the story. Darrell continued, “I had asked her out about a hundred times. When we were Juniors in high school, she was nominated for Carnival Queen and didn’t want to do it. She told me that if she accepted the nomination, I had to be her date for the carnival. I’m sure glad she did.”
Darrell enlisted in the United States Navy soon after he and Carolyn were married and he served for two years in the Seabees during the Vietnam War years. Carolyn worked at First Farmer’s Bank until Darrell returned. When he completed his enlistment, he joined Halliburton where he worked for ten years before deciding he wanted to be his own boss. They bought the lumber company from Jack James on February 1, 1977 and changed the name to Beaver Lumber. Forty-Two and a half years later they’ve raised two children, Darren and Cindy, and now have grandchildren that come visit and like to play in the same places their Mom, Cindy, and Uncle Darren played all those years ago. “Owning a store is a family venture. That’s part of the fun,” Carolyn stated. “It’s about family and friends and taking time to learn more about both.”
“We always have time for people and enjoy their visits. These visits are the best part of owning a local store,” Carolyn Said. They had many visitors through the years who have sat in their recliners or shared a space on the orange sofa. “Darrell’s Dad, Herschel, and Clyde Parker used to come in every single morning and would sit in the recliners and drink a Dr. Pepper. They would talk and visit with everyone who came in the store.” Carolyn continued, “We don’t have the recliners anymore, but we have a sofa and many people come in and site awhile and visit. Some come in just about every day. Some people bring their dogs or kids or grandkids. Some come in the same day every week. It’s often the favorite part of our week. We think it’s a big reason people like to shop local. The connections you make with customers is not something you find in a bigger store. We know our customers and their families. We raised our own children in this store.”
Carolyn and Darrell’s son, Darren, a 1990 graduate of Waurika High School, talked about all the fun he had growing up and spending time at the Lumber Yard. “My sister, Cindy, and I would be all over the store and would go visit other businesses. We would have lunch at the drug store and go over to the ice cream store and have ice cream. Waurika has always been a great place for kids to grow up.”
Carolyn and Darrell have seen lots of changes through the years and have been members of three different buying groups. “We started as an Ace Hardware. They were a huge organization and less like being part of a family. We left Ace and became part of the Handy Hardware group. We stayed with them for 25 years. When Handy went bankrupt we joined Orgill out of Memphis, TN and are still part of that group today.
“The whole industry has changed,” Darrell said. “When we first started all ceilings were 8 ft. Now they are 10 ft or 12 ft and that changes the lumber we stock. Plumbing and fittings have all changed. When we started PVC, pipe had only been out 5 or 6 years. That really changed plumbing. Floor coverings have changed.”
The product lines have changed as well. “We used to sell appliances, guns and ammunition and complete hunting and fishing supplies,” Darrell continued, “When we first bought the store, I bought concrete one pallet at a time and that would last a month. Now we buy concrete by the semi-truck load and that might last a month.” “We used to stock lots of nails. Now we sell 20 times more screws than nails. We buy very few nails. The fastener industry has certainly changed.”
When asked about wholesale sales vs. retail sales, both Carolyn and Darrell were quick to reply, “We keep our pricing so everyone pays the same price. We don’t have special rates for wholesale.” Carolyn continued, “the hard part is to always be competitive when the market changes every day. We watch pricing carefully to make sure we are competitive as prices go up and down.” A disaster like a hurricane can change all the pricing just about overnight. “You can’t plan for those,” Darrell concluded.
Both agreed that one of the keys to small business success is to make sure that you and your employees really know the products they are selling. It’s also important to keep a variety of merchandise which is sometimes challenging without having the scale of the larger stores. “When people are in a hurry, they know they can come here and be in and out quickly. They also know that we can help them find what they need to solve their hardware or building problem. It’s more difficult to find that in the larger stores.” Darrel said. “Lots of people want to come to a small home store instead of a chain store because of the level of service and knowledge.”
When asked about advice for people starting out in business both agreed that you, “Treat your customer like you want to be treated.” When asked if they would do if all over again, Darrel was quick to reply, “If I were 32 I would do it all over again.”
When we started the interview, Carolyn showed me two pieces of information. The first was a page showing the 3/50 project (the350project.net) which is all about saving the brick and mortar stores. The paper asks the reader to pick three independently-owned businesses you would miss most if they were gone. Then stop in and say hello. Pick up a little something that will make someone smile. Your purchase is what keeps those businesses around.
The next number is 50. If just half the employed U.S. population spent $50 each month in independently owned businesses, their purchases would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. The next important number is 68 because for every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. The article states that if you spend that in a national chain only $43 stays in the local community. The last number is the number 1 and that’s the number of people it takes to start the Trend. And, that one person is you. Pick 3. Spend $50 and save the local economy.
Carolyn also showed an article titled, “The Man Who Sold Hot Dogs.” The story was about a man who was very successful for many years selling hot dogs. He sold many, many hot dogs until his son convinced him that there was going to be a depression. He cut back his ordering, stopped advertising and stopped promoting his hot dogs. The sales fell immediately. The Father told his son he was right that “we certainly are in the middle of a depression.” The moral to the story was “that while everything may not be rosy, we shouldn’t let those with bad news change our course needlessly. Let’s not create our own recession.
With an attitude like Carolyn and Darrell Beaver, they certainly are not going to create their own recession. You might want to drop in and visit awhile. Of course, you might have to push a certain very large white dog named Bentley off the orange sofa to sit down. If he could talk, he would tell you that Beaver Lumber is the best place in the whole town to visit. The friendly owners and folks who work there make everyone feel right at home. I think Bentley is right. Beaver Lumber is one of the best places to shop. Shop local Waurika. Be the one who starts the trend.
Notes: This story is part of series on Waurika businesses sponsored by the Waurika Chamber of Commerce and its Shop Local Waurika Program. We will add stories periodically and we hope you enjoy them. To read more stories like it go to www.waurikachamber.com/shop-local-stories and find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WaurikaChamber/.