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"Local business owner profile" is a regular column highlighting local business owners; the backbone of our community and economy. Each column explores the personal stories of the owners and the businesses they built.
Craig Triebwasser's office window looks out onto the shop yard filled with neat stacks of stone, bricks and fencing. His domain is Valley Redwood Inc., the business that he and his father built 30 years ago.
In the 1970s, Craig worked at a wholesale lumber distribution and manufacturing plant in Rocklin. While there he got an education in the wholesale business as he shipped lumber all over the country and made connections to other folks in the building supply industry.
In 1982, when a small lumber and nursery shop in Sacramento became available, Craig and his father talked it over and decided to buy the business. They eliminated the nursery section and focused their efforts on redwood lumber, which was Craig's area of expertise.
Today, the company has expanded from selling only redwood fencing and decking materials to building blocks and bricks, retaining wall systems, pavers, natural stone and landscaping materials. They also carry hardware and tools for project needs.
The business is holding steady despite heavy competition and hard economic times. There are more than 70 companies in the Sacramento area whose services and products overlap with those offered by Valley Redwood.
Craig believes that what distinguishes his business from the others is personal service and quality. For example, his staff will stay late or come in early if a customer can't get to the yard during business hours. Once the customer arrives, the staff will show them around the yard and help them find the right product for their needs.
Shop manager Curt Lane says that the sales staff is very knowledgeable and many have been in the building trades for more than twenty years. Curt has been with Valley Redwood since 1988.
Material quality is also a hallmark of Valley Redwood, according to Craig. Many current customers are ones who originally went to large home centers because they thought they could save money, but found that the inferior quality product ultimately ended up costing more. "Once we get them in here, they find out the truth. They get quality materials here and they continue to come back for it," said Craig.
Craig tells the story of a contractor from Fallon, Nevada who drove six hours to a competitor in Sacramento. When the contractor saw the poor quality of lumber, he left without making a purchase. He had seen Valley Redwood on his drive into town and stopped there on his way out. He was so impressed with the stock quality that he purchased $5,000 worth on the spot. The contractor has been a faithful customer ever since.
A large portion of Valley Redwood's business was tied to home construction, but the severe downturn in the industry hurt sales. However, even with the loss of business, Craig did not lay off any of his employees. In comparison, he says that many of his competitors did cut staff and one of them reduced their workforce by half.
Craig is seeing some signs of recovery. On the homeowner side of the business, customers are starting to spend again on home improvements and do-it-yourself projects. On the commercial side, contract bids for large blocks of stone and other products are on the rise.
Would Craig embark again on a similar venture if he had to start over? No, he wouldn't. Craig says that the poor economy would make it too difficult to start the business now. Fortunately, he doesn't have to make that decision. In its three decades of operation, Valley Redwood has built up a loyal following making it mutually beneficial to keep the stone and lumber stacks replenished in the yard.
Valley Redwood, Inc. is located at 4836 Auburn Blvd., near College Oak Drive. The yard is open Monday through Saturday and delivery is also available.