Corpus Christi, Texas — Most people who look at the rising condominiums along the beach at Port Aransas think “vacation.” But for executives at Zarsky Lumber, the thought is “opportunity.”
“We aren’t afraid to have a salesman go over to the condos and ask for their cleaning supply business,” said Cally Fromme, executive VP of the Victoria, Texas-based lumberyard, ranked No. 115 on the HCN Top 200 Pro Dealer list, with $41.5 million in sales. “We’re a lumberyard, but if that’s going to make us some money and some relationships, then why not?”
Thinking outside the box isn’t the only way the 10-unit dealer has been able to rebound from a tough 2009 to a double-digit-percentage sales gain in 2010. And when the opportunity to acquire a 10th location presented itself last year, the conservative-minded management team pounced, creating a new branch in Port Aransas. The unit is already in the black, said Steve Weaver, manager. “A lot of it is the economy,” he said. “It’s not great here by any means, but it’s not as bad as other areas. It’s simply hard work. You have to have the right people, and you gotta think positive.”
According to executives, there’s no single reason for success in tough times. And there’s no secret either. Zarsky every day balances its emphasis on relationships, the conservative business practices, the tight-knit family style management, and — the granddaddy of them all — hard work.
The chief architect of the business model is president Dan Coleman, Fromme’s father, who, along with a partner, took over the business from the Zarsky brothers in 1976. Coleman’s management style empowers managers to make their own decisions and encourages them to make the most of community relationships.
“By getting involved in communities, from Rotary Club to Little League, not only are you doing good, but you’re making good contacts,” Fromme said. The company also invests in customer relationships with the time and effort required to get them hard-to-find products or materials. “Even for a walk-in customer who wants an oddball item, we can find it,” Fromme said. “Maybe we’re not going to make much money on the transaction, but we’re going to make a good