Sixty-Five And Still Growing
Employee opportunity equals success for Hammond Lumber
Hammond Lumber Company is celebrating its 65th birthday after enjoying the most successful year in its history. The Maine family business that began in 1953 as a tiny sawmill in Belgrade is now one of the largest independent building suppliers in New England, and it’s still growing.
In 2017 Hammond Lumber achieved its largest sales volume ever and now employs more people than ever.
According to Personnel Director Rod Wiles, there are currently 475 people working at the company. They include 140 who have worked with Hammond for more than ten years, 61 for more than twenty years, and 23 for more than thirty years.
“All that experience is the key,” says Wiles. “It adds up to an enormous knowledge of how the industry works, how the company works, and how best to serve the needs of our customers.”
Bangor thriving, too
There are 13 Hammond retail stores throughout the state, including the one on Hammond Street in Bangor, which the company opened in 2002 after buying the facility from Wickes Lumber. As have the other Hammond stores, Bangor has continued to thrive. Its staff of 39 workers includes 17 who have been there for five years or more, 8 who have been there for ten, and 4 who have been there since the store opened.
Steve Hardy, who has 21 years of experience working with Hammond Lumber and who has managed Bangor since 2008, says the owners themselves have established an environment of consistency, stability and opportunity that allows people to excel and inspires them to stay.
“That the family is still around is first and foremost,” says Hardy. “No one works harder than the Hammonds themselves do, and they don’t ask anyone to do anything they haven’t done or wouldn’t do themselves. They understand what each job requires, and they’re sensitive to the needs of employees and their families.”
Skip Hammond started the business with $50 he borrowed from his wife, Verna, who also worked in the company until several years ago. Now in their 90’s and still living a mile up the road in the house they built around the same time they acquired the sawmill, they still visit the store regularly. In fact, they’re often spotted driving around the yard and sawmills to see how things are going.
Skip and Verna’s son, Don, who started the retail side of the operation in 1967, handed off the roles of president and CEO to his own son Mike a year ago, though now as vice president he remains just as active as he’s ever been. Mike and his sister, Sarah Hammond Krizo, helped out at the Belgrade store while growing up, and Mike later served as vice president until last year. Sarah also works full-time for the company and oversees Hammond’s marketing effort.
“They’ve all worked in the yard, stocked shelves, crunched numbers and waited on customers,” Hardy says. “They understand what it takes to do each job, and they give the rest of us the opportunity to grow along with them. The harder you work, the more you’re recognized.”
Opportunities to grow
Hardy himself started out working in the pine bin in Belgrade in 1997. His other jobs included picking orders to be transferred to other Hammond stores, working in the door & window shop, cutting logs for the company’s Maine Pine Log Home packages, and also training in sales. He worked in Skowhegan and served as assistant manager of the Fairfield store before taking the reins in Bangor.
Wiles’ path to his job as personnel director also started out in the yard at Belgrade. That was 31 years ago. He then advanced into sales and also became a product buyer. In 1997, he assumed responsibility for advertising and marketing, then trained in personnel and ultimately became head of the department last year after the retirement of Bob Thing, who had started in the yard as a teenager.
Wiles says opportunities like the ones offered to himself, Hardy and many others who are now in management are even more available than when they started.
“We have three in-house trainers based in Belgrade whose job is to improve the knowledge and skills of all of us,” he says. “They conduct training sessions here and also travel to the other stores to educate employees about products, computer software, physical safety, and all the other important areas.”
Hardy credits the training offered by Hammond Lumber for not only empowering employees to advance their careers, but also for continuing to expand the scope and quality of customer service.
“The amount of time, effort and money the Hammonds devote to training is amazing,” he says. “They never stop.”