Visiting Ridgefield Supply Co. these days involves pardoning a considerable amount of dust.
But it’s only a temporary situation – and it certainly beats the dust that used to be there. The building and supply firm at 29 Prospect St. is nearing completion of a massive three-year renovation that is resulting in, for all intents and purposes, a brand new facility. Expected to be done in September, the new RSC will be composed of 11 buildings totaling 64,000 square feet, including a 5,000-square-foot retail store.
Modern amenities like LED lighting, roomy executive and back-office space, a conference room and training center are a far cry from what had been the case.
“We were all on top of each other, shouting to be heard,” owner Margaret Price said. “The paving was cracked, uneven. Now we’ve got a much cleaner, welcoming space, a dedicated loading dock and even separate men’s, women’s and unisex bathrooms. It’s all working out great.”
Price is the third generation to run the family business, following in the footsteps of her grandfather Louis H. Price Sr., who acquired the company in 1933, and her father Louis Jr., from whom she bought the company in 2011. RSC’s history actually stretches back to 1883, she said.
“My father and I planned (the renovation) for about seven years,” Price said. “Even when he got sick, he told my mother and me to stay with the project, which we did.”
Louis Jr. died in 2014, but remains in spirit, partly due to the Louis H. Price Education and Training Center, located above the home center. Not only will it serve to train RSC’s 48 employees, she said, but it will also be available to contractors, developers, architects and others who may be looking for a convenient space.
Lumber has always been the firm’s specialty, and Price points with pride to the fact that much of its stock is now held in covered outdoor areas. A customer-ticket system is now in place whereby one can easily find their merchandise by building, level and bin. Indoor warehouses are heated during the winter to prevent contraction of the product.
RSC is also putting the finishing touches on the old train station building, which was disassembled, moved across its five-acre lot and reassembled with a quaint look while also serving as a showroom for Kolbe Windows. The company also has dedicated a large space within the main home center to Andersen Windows.
“You can’t be in the building industry and not build it right,” she said.
Another change was hiring Glen Albee, formerly CFO at Hancock Lumber in Casco, Maine, as president in January 2016. “It’s just too much for one person to run,” Price said. “Sometimes I think it’s too much for two people.”
She credited Albee with bringing in a renewed sense of safety and discipline to the company.
“It was a good time for a transition,” Albee said. “I felt like I’d accomplished everything I could at my last company and this seemed like a great opportunity and a great area to live in.”
Price said that while many of the staff have been with RSC for up to 35 years – and noted that it employs two father-and-son teams and one set of brothers – Albee has helped revitalize the company by identifying and bringing in other staff as well.
“He’s focused on bringing in new blood, not necessarily young blood,” she said. “It’s important to find incredible new talent who can learn from the people who helped build the company, but can bring in some new ideas.
“This has always been an industry where you can grow as you learn,” Price added. “At a company like Pepsi, you can hit a ceiling – in this industry, that doesn’t exist.”
“The products are always changing,” Albee said. “How hard is it to run a customer counter? At a place like CVS you use the bar-code scanner, smile and be polite. Here you do all that, but you also have to know what tools, what nails work best for a particular project, how to suggest ways of doing certain things.”
As for the renovations, Price said that she’d looked at several spaces both in and outside Ridgefield before deciding to stay put. RSC has become a mainstay in the town, after all, and Price was recently named the 2017 Woman of the Year by its Chamber of Commerce.
Not that she was necessarily destined for the lumberyard, she said. “I was originally going to go into campaign management and politics,” she recalled, “but decided soon after college that this was where I should be.”
The single mother of two young boys said she wasn’t certain if she’d necessarily steer them into the family business.
Price and Albee are also concerned about where the state is headed financially, having recently lost a valued employee who moved out of state – but tellingly remains in the lumber industry – due to the cost of living, high taxes and transportation nightmares.
“That’s a microcosm of what’s happening here,” Albee said. “How do you attract innovative startup companies when you’ve got all the challenges that Connecticut has right now?”
RSC remains a member of the Lumber Dealers Association of Connecticut and its lobbying efforts, he said.