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Meek's Lumber General Manager Charlie Meek says growth through acquisition is common in the lumber industry.
Meek's Lumber General Manager Charlie Meek says growth through acquisition is common in the lumber industry.

Meeks Lumber adds stores, product line

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At a time when many construction-related companies are just holding on, Springfield-based Meek’s Lumber Co. is branching out and adding four Missouri stores as the result of an acquisition.

In May, the company purchased the assets of seven existing stores from Jonesboro, Ark.-based E. C. Barton & Co., converting four of those stores to Meek’s locations and closing three. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Local ownership has helped Meek’s move forward with growth, said General Manager Charlie Meek, who is the fourth generation of his family to head the company.

“We can focus in on our core business issues without having to meet the street’s expectations or hit a certain growth rate,” Meek said.

Meek’s great-grandfather, Charles Meek Sr., opened the company’s first location in Lockwood in 1920. In 1951, a location in California opened, and a sister contingent of 12 stores comprises the company’s West Coast division.

Companywide, Meek’s employs about 850 people and posted 2009 revenues of about $212 million.

Meek’s typically expands by acquiring existing stores because the lumber business is so relationship-oriented, Charlie Meek said, noting that builders do business with lumber dealers who know them and understand their needs.

“In order for us to acquire stores, there are two primary conditions,” Meek said. “No. 1, it has to be a well-established existing lumber yard with a good crew that is very familiar with the builders and remodelers in the community. No. 2, the store has to be in a community with a relatively healthy local economy.”

The Barton & Co. stores fit those conditions. Barton & Co. had previously approached Meek’s about buying seven of its locations, but because of the depressed market at the time, Meek’s said no. Later, however, Barton officials came back and said it was leaving southwest Missouri market because of its distance from the company’s core market in southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas.

Economic conditions had improved, so the two companies began negotiations, and Meek’s wound up buying the assets of the seven stores and rebranding four – in Mount Vernon, El Dorado Springs, Nevada and Shell Knob – under the Meek’s name.

Barton’s stores in Carthage, Monett and Kimberling City were closed, and inventory and charge accounts from those stores transferred to existing Meek’s locations in their corresponding markets, according to the company’s announcement of the acquisition.

Meek’s now has 34 stores in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas in its Midwest division, and Meek said 75 percent to 80 percent of its business comes from professional builders and remodelers, with the remainder from the do-it-yourself market.

“They’re a big company, but it feels like you’re dealing with a small company. You just feel important to them,” said home builder Kevin Clingan, who has done business with Meek’s for 27 years.

Knowledgeable lumber salespeople, fair managers and a philanthropic focus make Meek’s a pleasure to work with, Clingan said.

Matt Morrow, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield, said Meek’s has developed new locations where builders need them most.

“Just look at their locations on a map. They do keep up with housing growth and where housing growth is projected to go,” Morrow said.

Though new home building has been in a slump for a while, Meek said his outlook for 2010 and beyond is strong.

“We’re hoping for substantial (revenue) growth in 2010,” Meek said. “Over the last couple (or) three months, we’ve seen a substantial increase in activity in home building.  The market’s definitely picking up.”

May was a particularly busy month for Meek’s. Roughly a week after announcing the Barton & Co. acquisition, the company announced a partnership with Fayetteville, Ark.-based White River Hardwoods to sell its architectural accents at Meek’s Midwest locations. According to an announcement about the partnership, White River Hardwoods closed its Missouri retail operations April 30, but the partnership means that the company’s 450-plus products will remain available locally.[[In-content Ad]]


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