LaValley Building Supply

See the need, provide the service. That business philosophy brought Newport, N.H.-based LaValley Building Supply (LBS) from humble beginnings 50 years ago to its current stature as the largest independently owned building materials supplier in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Founded by Harold LaValley and his wife, Gerry, LaValley Building Supply prides itself on its commitment to company evolution. Formally known as LaValley-Middleton Building Supply Inc., the nearly 500-person company has 10 locations throughout the Twin States and is known for its manufacturing capacities – everything from windows and doors, cabinets and countertops, to roof and floor trusses, wall panels and even modular homes.  The company that started in 1962 in an 800-square-foot abandoned sawmill shed explains that it has become a model of lumber industry vertical integration.

Decades of Service

Second-generation President Larry Huot says LaValley's approach to business has always been proactive and built around the needs of customers. It is a combination that gives the company significant differentiation and a competitive edge in regional markets served with both independent and box-store competition.

“We strive to provide services that make our customers' jobs easier,” Huot says. “From design and technical expertise, knowledge of codes and regulations, the newest and highest-quality materials, and fabrication of building components, LaValley Building Supply is a full-service solutions provider.”

LaValley Building Supply is a forward-thinking company with its eye on the horizon to ensure it offers the best products and services possible. But as it celebrates its 50th year in business, Huot is taking time to look back on where the company has been.

“The company has come a long way since it first started,” Huot says. “Harold and Gerry LaValley are exceptional in their vision and commitment.”

Focus on Manufacturing

Harold LaValley got his start in the lumber industry as a contractor salesman at a small lumberyard in a neighboring town. He was 30 years old in 1962 when he started thinking that there was a better way to meet the lumber and building materials needs of a rapidly growing region. Recognizing how difficult it was for builders to be profitable with standard building practices, LaValley became a strong proponent of manufacturing. He believed that the more services that could be performed in a controlled environment, the greater consistency, predictability and profitability for all.

Beyond LaValley Building Supply's capacity to manufacture pre-hung windows, doors, cabinets and countertops, the company’s most prolific manufacturing operations included trusses and wall panels. The introduction of manufactured panels marked a revolution in standard industry practices, including the way that LBS sold house packages.

By the early 1970s, LaValley Building Supply’s expertise in building components had made it the go-to place for building packages designed for multistory family dwellings, apartment buildings, condominiums, commercial structures, schools and churches. The company's business traffic grew such that, by the end of 1974, LBS had become one of the top-50 single lumberyard operations in the nation in terms of dollar sales.

Full-Service Provider

In addition to LaValley Building Supply’s manufacturing services, the company also prided itself on design services and its well-stocked retail store. In 1975, the year that LBS made its first business acquisition with a lumberyard in Claremont, N.H., the company joined the Lumberman's Merchandising Corp.(LMC)

The decision was strategic and simple: by pooling buying with the nearly 150 other building material dealers east of the Mississippi River, LaValley could achieve large trade discounts. Today, the LMC buying cooperative has 300 members with a combined purchasing power of more than $15 billion. This gives LBS the buying power equivalent to big, national chains and an ability to offer prices that are often lower.

LaValley's renown as a full-service, high-quality and low-cost building materials provider spread. Through the 1980s, the company expanded its presence in Vermont and New Hampshire along the Connecticut River. In 1993, it acquired Middleton Building Supply and DiPrizio Pine Sales in Middleton, N.H., near the Maine border and became formally known as LaValley-Middleton Building Supply Inc.

The organization's passion to reduce risks and create profits for builders through a system of vertical integration became reality when, in 1993, it began a 15-year mill renewal project at DPS. In 2008, when the renovations and updates to the 10-acre mill were completed, DPS was recognized as one of the most state-of-the-art saw mills in the Northeast.

Today, DPS boasts a yearly manufacturing capacity of 20 million board feet of lumber and a processing/warehouse inventory system that guarantees competitively-priced, quality products, shipped on-time and complete. The firm is a wholesale distributor of Eastern White Pine products that ship as far away as the West Coast.

Putting People First

Aided in part by the economic and building boom of the mid-1990s, the LaValley-Middleton Building Supply organization continued to grow. A new Middleton-affiliated store opened in Dover, N.H., in 1996, followed in 2001 by LaValley-affiliated stores in Ludlow and Rutland, Vt. Additional expansions in Meredith, Hampton and Walpole, N.H., came in 2008.

Throughout the company's history of expansion, all but one of its new store locations came by acquisition when other family owned businesses were looking to sell and the LaValley organization was looking to buy. Each of the employees of the acquired stores was invited to stay on, a policy that has yielded good results, as these individuals typically possessed LaValley Building Supply’s same family centered values.

“Relationships and respect – these are hallmarks that really matter,” Huot says. “Harold not only understands every task done by his employees, but he has often undertaken them himself. He would roll up his sleeves, go out and pound roof truss plates to get an order out on time. When we’ve opened stores, he’d be there stocking shelves. There has never been a job that was beneath him.”

“To be successful in the lumber business, one needs to be honest and fair with everybody, and we try to be,” Harold LaValley says.

Community Commitment

Customers have recognized the value that the LaValley-Middleton organization places on relationships, along with its loyalty to local communities. “We try to do our part,” Harold LaValley says. “When the towns and communities we’re in need a little help, we try to respond. Of particular interest are programs for young people, athletics, arts, theater anything for the enjoyment of the people in the community.”

In 2003, Forbes magazine honored LaValley Building Supply with a national Business in the Arts Award for its outstanding support of the arts through financial support, time and in-kind donations of materials. LBS believes in a direct correlation between healthy and vibrant communities and healthy and vibrant businesses.

“We never lose sight of the fact that our customers and employees are our lifeblood,” Huot says. “We are driven to find better market solutions for our customers, good working conditions for our employees, and always better efficiencies and service processes.”

Industry Innovation

Huot says LaValley has always been associated with fairness, anticipation of customer needs and a willingness to provide exemplary customer service and satisfaction. Therefore, one of the company’s most notable recent developments was the 2006 establishment of a new modular housing division, Preferred Building Systems (PBS).

Located in Claremont, N.H., this diversification positioned LBS to respond to a growing nationwide demand for modular homes. PBS brought a 21st-century approach to building, reflective of a clientele who want things fast, affordable, environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.

“Affordability isn’t just being able to pay to get into a house; it also has to do with the cost to sustain a quality home over years and years,” Huot says. “Decades of supplying and manufacturing building components for custom builders in the weather extremes of New England made for a great testing ground.

“Now, our line of modular homes reflects the latest renaissance in homebuilding. We're known for vast selection, customization and methods of energy savings in heating and cooling costs."

PBS was the first company to build a modular passive house – which is well-insulated and controls the intake of air to regulate energy use – for a Habitat for Humanity build in Charlotte, Vt., in 2010. “It was really an exciting project to be a part of, and this is the type of thing that keeps us ahead of the curve,” Huot says.

Huot says LBS will remain committed to its goals and employees who will make them happen. “Our greatest asset is our people,” Huot says. “The majority of the LaValley-Middleton organization's employees have been with us for more than 20 years. We've been very fortunate to have outstanding individuals who have stuck with us for years. The best ideas come from our people.”

Concerning the current economic challenges, the company prefers to look forward rather than back. “Nothing is forever,” Harold LaValley explains. “It may be difficult now, but that will change. You just have to be ready.”

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