rk Miles, a family owned building supplies and hardware company based in southern Vermont, plans to acquire Allen Lumber Inc., which has four stores in central and northern Vermont.
Allen Lumber stores will be rebranded with the rk Miles name, Steve Allen, the company president, said Wednesday. The sale is scheduled to close in March.
“It’s been very emotional in the last few days,” said Allen, who with his brothers belongs to the fifth generation to work in the business. “But everybody is going to be OK.”
Allen said he and his brothers started looking for an exit strategy for their Barre-based business about three years ago after their brother Paul, one of five Allen brothers in the business, died. Steve Allen is 54; his brother Gary, who is chairman of the board, is turning 70 this year.
They chose the 80-year-old rk Miles Inc. because it is a similarly sized Vermont family business. Steve Allen said Allen Lumber’s 65 employees will keep their jobs for the foreseeable future; he said meetings between the two companies to work out many of the transition details will start on Friday.
“They do business a lot the way Allen Lumber does,” said Steve Allen. “The biggest part of it was we wanted to make sure our employees were going to be treated like family. And they share a lot of the same vendors, the same products. They’re just a classy lumber company.”
Based in Manchester Center, rk Miles also has stores in the Vermont towns of Middlebury, Morrisville and Stowe, and in West Hatfield and Williamstown, Massachusetts. The company acquired the family owned Morrisville Lumber Inc., with locations in Morrisville and Stowe, in 2017.
Consolidation is a fact of life in the retail building supplies and lumber industry, as in many others. According to the research group IBIS World, the industry had revenues of $93 billion last year, with annual growth of .4% over the five years leading up to 2019. But the number of businesses dropped in that period.
“I’d blame it on the Lowe’s and Home Depot and everything else,” Steve Allen said of consolidation. Home Depot is the world’s largest home improvement retailer, according to Forbes; Lowe’s is second largest. Allen Lumber and rk Miles purchase their products through LMC, or Lumberman’s Merchandise Corp., which Steve Allen said gives them better buying power to compete with their big box competitors.
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Steve Allen plans to stay on for at least a few years, but doesn’t yet know what his title will be.
“I’ll probably end up as a manager in one of the locations, more than likely in Barre,” he said.
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