Blue Ridge Lumber is a distributor of lumber and building supplies with five lumber yards and showrooms throughout Northern New Jersey.
Blue Ridge Lumber was founded in 1960 by Donald and Grace Ackerson. They leased a small portion of Read’s Apple Jack distillery and started to build their dream selling rough lumber. They steadily built the business from ground up and were eventually able to buy the building they were leasing in the early 1970s. They then built a 12,000 square foot showroom and warehouse on that site which remains as the flagship store and Company Headquarters.
“It started as a small mom and pop lumber yard and got much bigger,” says General Manager Chuck Post. “We’re now one of the larger building material distributors in Northern New Jersey but we still have a mom and pop feel. That’s who we are.”
For thirty-two years, the company operated under the careful leadership of Don and Grace until the pair retired in 1992 and passed the company on to their son Greg Ackerson. Under his leadership, Blue Ridge Lumber expanded through various additions and acquisitions. In 1995, Ackerson started a separate business venture called Grand Rental Station in Blairstown. Working as a supplier to builders gave Ackerson a keen understanding of the challenges they faced in the region. He realized that there was a need for quality tools and equipment to be available to builders and the public on a rental basis, and Grand Rental Station was established to meet that need.
In 1998, the company acquired Williams and Hibler, a lumberyard with a long history of operating in Hackettstown, NJ. This became the second Blue Ridge Lumber location, and the third facility under Ackerson’s ownership. The company ran this way until 2005 when Ackerson opened a second Grand Rental Station. Having a foothold in Hackettstown, he identified a similar need for a tool rental service in this area, and began operating there as well. In 2008 he acquired Wickes Lumber in Kenvil, NJ and opened it as the third lumber yard under the Blue Ridge flag. This acquisition paved the way for the next, a second Wickes facility specializing in kitchen and bathroom design, brought into his family of companies in 2010. In 2013 the company expanded into Ogdensburg, NJ and took over the Kuiken Brothers Lumber yard. Finally in 2016, a fifth Blue Ridge location was opened in Fairlawn, NJ which was previously the home of Glen Rock Lumber.
Today, Greg Ackerson is the owner of five Blue Ridge Lumber yards and one Grand Rental Station in Hackettstown. The company employs seventy people across its Blue Ridge facilities, bringing in more during the summer months. All locations are north of Route 78, making the company a major player in New Jersey’s northern corridor.
Blue Ridge Lumber prides itself on its commitment to providing the best possible value to customers. “Customer service is number one to us,” says Post. “If we get an order at eight or nine in the morning it’s going out the same day. We know that our customers’ time is money.”
The company’s ability to remain nimble despite its substantial growth is a direct result of the experience and skill within the ranks of its staff. Many of Blue Ridge’s employees have been with the company for fifteen or more years, while a general manager recently retired after forty years with the company. Customers can be assured that working with Blue Ridge Lumber means working with experts in building material. They will get a quality product at a fair price with fast turnaround time, all under the guidance of an experienced team who knows exactly what’s needed for any building project.
This dedication to its customers has enabled the company to develop many long-standing business relationships within its operating territory. Selling lumber means there isn’t a lot of room for the company to distinguish itself in terms of the product it offers; instead, Blue Ridge Lumber sets itself apart from competitors with the quality of its service. Many of its contracting customers have been working with Blue Ridge for decades, since the sixties in some cases. In order to help new and prospective customers make purchasing decisions, the company has beautiful showrooms where customers can preview products before buying. The company is committed to making the process of sourcing material as simple as possible for builders.
Blue Ridge offers engineered lumber and beam products from OnCenter. Beyond lumber, the company offers a wide selection of other building products from major manufacturers including deck and railing options from Trex and RDI and windows and doors from Anderson, ThermaTru, Marvin, and Jeld-Wen, among others. Blue Ridge’s product line consists of only the highest quality name brand products to ensure that its customers have everything they need to deliver a quality finished project.
Beyond building supplies, Blue Ridge also has a kitchen and bathroom design department that has grown into an important aspect of the business. In its Blairstown, Hackettstown, Kenvil, and Ogdensburg locations, the company maintains beautiful showrooms demonstrating a range of kitchen and bath products. When the company acquired the Wickes kitchen and bath facility in 2010, it began incorporating this service into its offering, and now it has nearly a decade of experience in this area. “Many of our customers who do additions with us also use us for kitchen and bath design,” says Post. “We have some really nice displays that people can come look at. We have five different high quality designers who have been in the industry a long time, so you can get some really good ideas and quality designs by working with these guys.”
Blue Ridge Lumber also offers a deck design service. Customers can bring in their deck design concept drawings and Blue Ridge employees will help them determine the feasibility of the project and the costs involved, and will apply their expertise toward finding the best way to turn concept into reality. To be sure, Blue Ridge is more than a building material supply company; it is a family of experts that aims to provide solutions and guidance to its customers.
Providing expert guidance is a key aspect of Blue Ridge that runs through every facet of the company from its kitchen, bath, and deck design services, to helping customers select the right lumber products. The company has a dedicated outside sales team that will go directly to a customer’s job site to take measurements and help determine the best product solutions to suit a given project. “Our service travels to the field so customers don’t have to come to us,” explains Post.
A major challenge facing Blue Ridge currently is one that is shared by all U.S. companies who depend on the trucking industry for distribution: throughout the nation, drivers are in short supply. The industry is facing a historic capacity shortage which is resulting in substantial increases in labor costs. According to a study by the American Trucking Association, the median wage of a truck driver increased fifteen percent over the last four years. For Blue Ridge, the shortage could mean cost increases, stock shortages, and less reliability overall. To counteract this problem, Blue Ridge has been shifting more and more toward receiving product via rail. As a result, customers can be assured that the company will have products stocked even when competing businesses do not. In addition, it ensures a better quality product, fresh cut directly from the mills. In order to mitigate the cost increases, Blue Ridge is buying forward so that its cost is always as low as it can possibly be.
Blue Ridge Lumber has grown into a company of significant scale, but its leadership has structured the business to be nimble enough to serve customers quickly. Often, when a contracting company runs into problems on a job site, the project is delayed or stalled completely. Blue Ridge Lumber has emphasized within its workforce a focus on being able to react to issues as they arise in order to solve them quickly. “When someone has a problem,” says Post, “they don’t want to hear that they’re being put in line and the delivery will be there three days from then; they want to know that someone can help them quickly. That’s a feather in our cap that the owner has always pushed for – we not only have to have good customer service, but we have to be nimble enough to react when our customers need us the most.”
Since 1960, Blue Ridge Lumber has proudly provided New Jersey area builders with top quality lumber and building material products. Across many years and many expansions, the company has grown into a leading supplier with a reputation for quality product and quality service.