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A new building supply store in Cape Elizabeth is taking the local-sourcing movement to a new market, by offering lumber produced only in Maine.
The store, called the Lumbery and located at 287 Ocean House Road, had a soft opening on Nov. 18 with stock from five Maine mills.
The target customer is local contractors and do-it-yourselfer homeowners.
“The farm-to-table movement seemed to leapfrog lumber,” co-owner and CEO Michael Friedland told Mainebiz. “Why buy potatoes not from Maine and why buy pine not from the Pine Tree State?”
Stock comes from the Maine Cedar Store in Portage, Butler’s Cedar Products in Corinth, Yoder’s Sawmill in Corinna, Maschino and Sons in New Gloucester and Parker’s Lumber in Bradford.
All of the mills are family-owned and -operated and all of the trees are cut within 40 miles of the mills, according to a sign he set up mapping the locations of the mills.
Friedland owns a handyman business in Cape Elizabeth called Willard Square Home Repair.
He bought the building that houses the Lumbery last December.
The building was originally owned by Cumberland Farms, which relocated across the street. The building had been vacant about five years before Friedland bought it.
Friedland had expected to open the store sometime in June. But the city approval process took longer than he expected, he said.
“Once we got approved, we had everything and everyone lined up with wheels on,” he said. “We got approved on a Tuesday, the electricians and plumbers were in on Wednesday, we got the paving pulled up that Thursday. So we went right at it.”
Friedland and his partners in the venture — his sister Jennifer Friedland-Stora and Willard Square crew members Ryan Holland and Alex Bettigole — did the lion’s share of the renovation themselves, he added.
Investment in the business has been $385,000 for the property purchase, $275,000 to $300,000 for renovations, and about $130,000 for initial inventory. The project was mainly self-financed through Friedland’s previous real estate deals.
Friedland grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. He wanted to be in a small city by the ocean, so he moved to South Portland in 1999.
In 2005, he opened his handyman business. But he found there was no nearby lumberyard to buy wood. And the wood found at big-box stores “may have been sawn within a couple hundred miles of the store, but ends up going two, three or even four states away to a regional distribution hub only to be put back on a truck and shipped back to where it came from,” he told Mainebiz last February.
He figured that, since he had to stock his own wood, it would also be a great opportunity to open a store to sell wood and related items to other small businesses and to DIYers as well.
“I had a handyman and home repair business for so long that I know what you need for your house, 90% of the time,” he said.
Willard Square paused operations due to the pandemic.
“It seemed too risky to send workers into other peoples homes,” he said. “Our old crew have all branched off on their own and we have fed them work through referrals.”
Friedland maintains the Willard Square Home Repair name and his customer list in case he starts up again.
“There is still a huge demand for professional handyman services,” he said. “But for now we are focusing on the Lumbery.”
In addition to lumber, the store offers wood-associated products such as fastenings and hand tools, and locally made wood products such as garden totes, branded with the Lumbery logo, he said.
The hardware is not locally sourced.
“That will be phase two,” he said. “We’ll track the chain of custody of everything we sell.”
The chain-of-custody model “asks a few basic question: where did this item come from and what are the social, environmental and economical impacts associated with this item,” according to the store’s website.
In the case of wood, questions include: Where was the tree located? Whose land was it on? Is the forest sustainable? Who cut the tree down? Who transported the tree and from where? Where is the mill, who owns and benefits from the mill, and what does the mill do with its waste? How did the wood get to the store?
Friedland is also offering a membership-based “tool lending library.”
Friedland is marketing the store’s presence through Cape Elizabeth’s and his own social media, his Willard Square Home Repair customer list of about 2,500 people, “and calling everyone we know,” he said.
“I was a little hesitant to go bullish because I didn’t know how the opening would go,” he continued. “Now that the kinks are out, we’ll start cold-calling contractors in the area and start advertising in magazine and newspapers.”
The store will be open year-round.
“I’m really excited to bring a business that enhances the everyday lives of people who live in the community,” Friedland said. “Having a store for your home makes life where you live better.”