Small Business Story: Luzerne Lumber Company Thrives by Avoiding Injuries and Lawsuits

The CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship encourages entrepreneurship in students by asking them to take on the perspective of a local small business owner. Students share their perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by a business in their community.

Student: Sarah Knappman, Penn State University, Eberly College of Science

Small Business: Luzerne Lumber Company

Small Business: Luzerne Lumber Company

Is it impartial to say that my favorite small business is one that pays me? Saving up for college expenses that will come after this summer, I have spent most of my summer at the same place my mom has worked for twenty-five years, Luzerne Lumber Company. There, I post and reconcile checks, do the deposits, stock Ace orders, create POs, file, organize, work on the redesigned website— whatever task is asked of me on a given day. And during my many tasks in the store, I continue to learn about the many aspects that go into a small business.

Operating for over 50 years, Luzerne Lumber Company (LLC), located in Luzerne, Pennsylvania, is a local lumber and hardware store that receives the bulk of its business from contractors. It sells roofing, siding, moulding, plumbing, electrical, paint and products in many other departments. Any item not in stock can be specially ordered through Acenet. Though LLC has been an affiliate with Ace Hardware since its inception, it is not an Ace Hardware store. Because of this, there is more flexibility as to what products are stocked. (Remember how it was named “Lumber”? Ace does not sell lumber.) On the downside, there is extra cost on LLC’s part to brand another hardware supplier’s name, in hopes to lure in customers who look for a known and trusted logo.

One of the most obvious risks for any small business is the competition with large corporations. In this industry, even with Ace’s name beside us, companies like Lowes and Home Depot are considered the go-to stops, especially among “average Joe” homeowners and do-it-yourselfers. Additionally, Amazon, the online superstore one can buy anything on, poses a growing competition for its wide selection and accessibility.

Safety is also a large concern for LLC. Large and heavy machines, equipment, and supplies can be dangerous to both employees and customers if not handled properly, and can result in less productivity, lawsuits, injury or even death. While safety is continually stressed, there are still chances for accidents to occur. Most recently, one of the awnings collapsed after a bad storm. While no one was injured and the collapse was caused by forces beyond what anyone could have planned for, the time spent cleaning up after it and replacing it was a loss to the company. If someone were under there or the lumber beneath it was damaged, the accident could have cost even more resources.

Another current concern increasingly being thrown upon the retailers like LLC are asbestos lawsuits. Those who now suffer with cancer after purchasing and working with now-dangerous products that were sold decades ago are going after LLC and other companies, whether the asbestos-causing products were sold by it or not. And, of course, the economy is one more factor into how well a lumber and hardware business thrives. When the economy is bad, construction slows on new houses and additions, focus is on repairs instead of replacements, and unnecessary services are cut short. As a lot of our business comes from contractors, we indirectly hurt, too.

Through all of the risks, Luzerne Lumber Company has had many successful years, and for now, seems to have many years to come. It has survived through fire and flood (literally), and though there are risks involved, by being a small business, or by selling to the industry it does, being exposed to these risks comes with being in the business world. Fortunately, being aware of these risks is one step closer to a successful business.