84 Lumber blames poor corporate fit for North Auburn store closure

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
From the start, North Auburn’s 84 Lumber location was the odd store out, a company spokesman said. “We have 299 stores and 298 were pretty much the same,” 84 Lumber spokesman Jeff Nobers said. Nobers said it wasn’t Home Depot or the economy that were at the root of the privately held Pennsylvania company’s decision to pull the plug on the North Auburn store this past week. The Dry Creek Road location is now having a soft closing, with its entire inventory being offered at 10 percent to 30 percent off. Instead, the store limped along since its purchase in 2002 in a bankruptcy sale from Lumberjack owner Payless Cashways – a consumer oriented home-improvement store owned by a company that usually caters to contractors. 84 Lumber bought about 20 Lumberjack stores at that time, with North Auburn different than the others because of its home-improvement focus, Nobers said. “It was very different from the beginning – a big-box, home-improvement store when our others are more lumber yards geared to new-home contractors and remodelers,” Nobers said. “We don’t have garden centers or a vast array of paints for the homeowner. We’re more on the construction end.” The 84 Lumber closure will put 19 employees at the Dry Creek Road store out of work, Nobers said. 84 Lumber is also closing one of its more traditional contractor-oriented stores in Modesto because of a severe downturn in the building industry, he said. Because the company has just three stores remaining in California, it wasn’t feasible to offer a relocation option, Nobers said. A typical 84 Lumber store has five employees, he said. In all, 84 Lumber has closed about 200 stores in the past two years, mainly because of the economy but also because of small lot sizes, he said. “A lot were opened in the 1960s and 1970s on a couple of acres of land,” Nobers said. “They were very small and now we need 12 to 14 acres to provide big yards geared to professionals.” The decision was made not to transfer North Auburn stock to the other stores because so much of it is not product that is sold elsewhere in the chain, he said. That resulted in the closing sale now in progress. 84 Lumber has contracted with a wholesaler and the sale will continue until the two decide everything that can be sold has been sold, Nobers said. The site, located near the Highway 49-Dry Creek Road intersection, is owned by 84 Lumber and will be put up for sale. Looking at buyers of store property over the past three years, Nobers said churches have been purchasers in several cases. Others have reverted to lumber yards while others have been taken over by buyers who have developed 10- or 12-unit shopping centers.