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Auburn’s 84 Lumber closing a sign of times or Home Depot?

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Is 84 Lumber’s closing a sign of the times or Home Depot? The Dry Creek Road hardware and lumber store in North Auburn started a soft closing Wednesday, with all items in stock being sold off for from 10 percent to 30 percent off. The store – one of about 500 84 Lumber locations in 35 states – is expected to shut its doors when the store’s stock has been sold. Actual closing date has yet to be announced. Reasons behind the decision by the privately held, Pennsylvania-based company weren’t being shared by the business Wednesday but talk at the store among customers ranged from the economy to the new presence of nearby, big-box giant Home Depot to a poor product mix. The store itself has been at the North Auburn location for about a decade. It replaced a Lumberjack hardware store that was built on the site in the early 1990s. Dave Albright of Auburn loaded up on screws, nuts and bolts at 30 percent off on Wednesday and reminisced about the weekends he would commute from the Bay Area to build a house with supplies from the store. Albright said the region’s economic downturn hurt the most but so did the Home Depot opening in early 2009. The hardware superstore on county-owned land is less than 2 miles away on Highway 49, with good visibility from the busy roadway. The 84 Lumber property is tucked away behind a recently built gas station. “It’s primarily the economy,” Albright said. “In my business, I’ve had 30 percent vacancies because people have moved away to look for employment elsewhere. But Home Depot has meant competition and that store is big.” Albright said he’ll shop plumbing supply store Ginty Supply Co. in North Auburn more now because of its knowledgeable staff and access to specialized products. 84 Lumber was busy in the past. “But now you come into this store and it’s vacant,” Albright said. “This place has been a morgue for months.” Contractor Gary Cooney, who works out of Auburn, said he normally shops at Diamond Pacific in Auburn because of a longstanding good relationship with that store but was checking out 84 Lumber to see if they had any bargains in the sale for tools. “I don’t have anything against this place,” Cooney said. “I don’t think it was Home Depot. I’m assuming people shopping at Home Depot would have been going down the hill to Roseville.” North Auburn resident Wayne Nader said he was surprised to see the “Closing Sale” banners when he visited the store. “I don’t know if you can blame Home Depot,” Nader said. “It’s certainly reflective of the economy but it’s also reflective of the product mix. I’ve experienced a lot of frustration because they didn’t have what I needed.” Auburn-area Supervisor Jim Holmes cast votes against Home Depot proceeding before county approvals were issued but he based his decision on traffic concerns along Highway 49. Holmes said he toured 84 Lumber in the past and observed a business whose biggest customers were contractors. Contractors buying a truckload of lumber didn’t want to get stuck behind another customer inquiring about a lamp for their living room, he said. “They were very busy,” Holmes said.”I’d have to say their demise was more due to the economic downturn.” Holmes added that he has also monitored the Ace Hardware and True Value stores in Auburn and the Hill’s Flat Lumber store in Colfax. Hill’s Flat wasn’t that concerned about Home Depot and the two Auburn stores seemed to be doing well, he said. The Journal was referred by local management to 84 Lumber headquarters in Pennsylvania for more information on the closure but as of late Wednesday phone calls had not been returned.