Lumber yard shutting down

Posted: Friday, September 23, 2005

Professional contractors and do-it-yourself home repair and renovators will find they have one less place to shop for building materials next month as the Red Diamond Lumber store on Kalifornsky Beach Road is going out of business.

“We just can’t compete with Home Depot being here,” said store owner Calvin Fertig.

Red Diamond Lumber opened in 1997, and, initially, saw several years of growth. According to Fertig, he strived to cater the business to the individual, and he prided himself in personalized customer service — not just selling the materials and tools to people, but talking them through the task at hand, as well.

However, Fertig said his business started getting hammered almost immediately after the Atlanta-based chain super-store arrived in Kenai at the end of 2003.

“We started losing business since Home Depot arrived. I knew they would hurt us, I just didn’t know how much,” he said.

Fertig added that he considered closing in 2004 when his sales went down the drain, but stayed open longer in hopes that business might improve in 2005. It didn’t.

“This year started worse than last year, so I decided to pull the plug,” he said.

Fertig added that as much as it hurts to close the door on his small business, he believes that it’s part of a nationwide trend of “mom and pop” stores being crushed by chain-store giants.

“Little guys like us can’t contend with them — the Home Depots and the Wal-Marts. I’m not happy about it, but that seems to be the way its going. Some people just want to shop at one or two stores,” he said.

Fertig added that what really bothers him is that he believes bigger is not necessarily better in regard to prices, products and service.

“They don’t have to be cheaper or better, they just have to advertise a lot. People go because they have better advertising. People don’t bother checking prices, though.

“It’s the same crowd that drives to Anchorage every weekend. They’ll spend all that money in gas just to save 50 cents while shopping,” he said.

Fertig was careful not to paint every customer with a broad brush.

“We have some really good, loyal customers that come in no matter what Home Depot does, but there’s just not enough of them,” he said.

Red Diamond Lumber is tentatively scheduled to close the first week of October, but Fertig said a lot depends on how fast they sell their remaining stock.

“We’re still doing special orders on metal roofing, but with everything else, we’re just liquidating what we’ve got,” he said.

The building itself is also owned by Fertig and is currently for sale, as Fertig and his wife intend to — after 13 years living in Alaska — move back to Wyoming after the store closes.

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