Black Lumber remains open, essential
This is another in a series of articles on how local businesses are currently coping with the coronavirus and its related issues.
If there were any questions as to whether lumber yards and hardware stores provided an essential service, those thoughts blew right away — along with so many tree limbs and roofing shingles — in the 70-plus mph winds that came through Putnam County last Wednesday.
The aftermath of the severe storms left local homeowners in need of supplies for things beyond your run-of-the mill spring improvement project.
Black Lumber Co. in Greencastle certainly saw a surge in orders as residents assessed the damage to their homes on Thursday and Friday.
“We’re just pumping orders out of here,” Alison Beauchamp, store general manager, said. “I’m just overwhelmed by the support from the community. We’ve gotten calls saying, ‘Thank you for staying open.’”
Despite being happy to learn that lumber yards were on the list of businesses deemed essential by the State of Indiana when the stay at home order in response to COVID-19 was announced last month, Beauchamp admits she had her doubts, wondering “What are we doing being open?”
The storms immediately changed her mind.
“The other night when those storms went through, it really just flipped my mind,” Beauchamp said. “When we were getting shingles for people and tarps, it really just flipped my mind. We are essential here.”
That doesn’t mean the business model is exactly the same as it was pre-COVID.
For one thing, the hours have changed, with Black temporarily open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Additionally, to keep employees and customers safe and maintain adequate social distancing, the store is open for curbside pickup only.
A sign at the front door of the store currently reads: “We are open! Curbside only. Call 765-653-5171.”
“The inside is closed, although you can still get items from in there,” Beauchamp said. “We’ll just gather it for you.”
Customers can call ahead, of course, but they can also come to the 501 N. Indiana St. location and make the call from the parking lot, if they aren’t 100-percent sure what they need.
One such customer — a novice at roof repair — called from the parking lot on Thursday needing the supplies to tarp a portion of his roof.
Employee Patrick Stine took the call, helping the customer pick out the right tarp size before advising him on the appropriate lumber and hardware to secure the tarp to the roof.
For other customers, it has even involved holding product choices up at the front window to let them choose.
“Patrick is perfect for that,” Beauchamp said. “It almost seems like you can’t do it but he can walk you through any process.”
It isn’t just Stine, though, as all six Black Lumber employees — those on the retail floor and in the yard — are still working to meet customer needs. It’s as simple as calling in to place an order and pay, then pulling out back to pick up the items.
“Our customer service has not changed,” Beauchamp said. “This is the time we’re shining. You just call in and we’ll get what you need.”
Beauchamp also emphasized that Black has not increased its prices simply because people are in need of certain goods at this time.
“We are not gouging people on things they need,” Beauchamp said.
She added that the community support is reciprocal.
“I really feel the support from them,” Beauchamp said. “I really feel like people are staying in town.”