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Passing the baton at Washington State's E&E Lumber

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relationship. Loyalty. Commitment. These are the words that the folks E&E Lumber have lived by for 58 years. And the reason that they have remained a steady resource for the homeowners and contractors across Washington state.

“This whole business is relationship based, from the customer to the vendor,” says Brent Emory, VP of E&E, who started with the company at 16, then took over the family business 43 years ago at the age of 21. “That’s always been my philosophy growing up—and my whole life.” He equates it to a marriage: “It’s about talking about stuff, having good communication.” 

In Emory’s 20s, he and his staff built many of their decades-long, customer relationships from their two Washington locations in Marysville and Sedro-Woolley. It’s why 75-year-old Ron Loop of Loop Construction still comes into the Marysville store 45 years later to buy his supplies.

Yet, as Emory is looking towards retirement, so too are a number of his longtime customers. He shared that one of his employees, who has been with the company nearly 40 years, has seen some of his customers retire that he used to work with every day. Emory says others are “phasing out, moving south, or unfortunately passing away.”

That’s why Emory has educated his children and younger staff on the importance of building their own relationships with younger clientele. “You do something long enough, there’s going to be change one way or another. The kids, the younger contractors, need to do their thing.”

He says relationship building is all about team building. He points to his family’s relationship with Mike Reimer, president of family-owned Western Wood Preserving Co., Sumner, Wa., and Mike’s two children, who enjoy motorcycle riding together. 

Ultimately, Emory says, it’s about loyalty, quality, good service, and competitive pricing. “You want your customer to be loyal to you and vice versa. You always try to do the right thing with your customer. Hopefully, you’ll have them for 30 years or so like we did.”

Emory has taught his staff, including his son-in-law Kyle Rossnagle and daughter, Brooke Rossnagle, that quality and good service have been the keys to keeping E&E Lumber competitive despite the four box stores within five miles of their Marysville location and the two box stores within five miles of the smaller Sedro-Woolley location.

“People like coming to us because they get the quality help. All our people have been here 12 to 40 years. We give them that quality help, and get them the answers instead of just pointing them down an aisle.”

This, in turn, has kept their sales steady year over year. That and their fully stocked lines of decking including Trex and TimberTech. “We have really good suppliers that we work with. We get our products every day—next day if we special order it. The quality of the service is what keeps (the customers) faithful.”

They also stock premium Douglas fir purchased from Weyerhaeuser in Seattle, Wa., and treated products by Western Wood Preserving. 

E&E, whose business is made up of approximately 20% treated wood, had been dealing with Western Wood Preserving for over 35 years, but made them their primary treater during the pandemic when their previous treater wasn’t able to provide what they needed. Emory explains that one of Western Wood’s sales managers had been trying to get them to switch for 37 years. “Once we switch,” Emory explains, “we’re extremely loyal.” Western Wood Preserving makes stops at E&E three days a week. 

“I feel if you’re loyal, you’re going to always be taken care of,” Emory adds. “The guys that aren’t browbeating (their suppliers) all the time for better pricing are gonna get—if the deal does come up—they’ll really hook you up, take care of you. I just feel the loyalty there at the end of the day—everything is long term, if you plan on being in business long term.”