By Travis Mounts
Andale Lumber of Andale will be sold to Fisher Lumber of Garden Plain, the owners of both businesses announced this week.
The sale is expected to close on May 20.
“We here at Andale Lumber are excited to become part of Fisher Lumber,” said Andale Lumber owner Pat Reichenberger.
Reichenberger and Fisher Lumber co-owner Joe Fisher had talked about meeting over coffee sometime to discuss politics. But by the time they met last October, Reichenberger had a different agenda. He brought up the idea of a sale or a merger.
At 71, Reichenberger said it was time to decide what would happen to the business after he retires. He said Fisher Lumber was the only buyer he would consider.
Reichenberger will remain manager of Andale Lumber. He said he’d like to continue working until he turns 80.
Joe Fisher and his brother and co-owner, Jack Fisher, said having Reichenberger stay on board was a key part of the sale agreement. They said the impact on employees will be minimal.
“Pat has wonderful employees and we do, too, and that’s important,” Joe Fisher said.
Two of Pat’s sons work for him, and he said they’re very excited about the sale.
The Fishers and Reichenberger said their businesses have very similar cultures that include a small-town atmosphere and strong customer service. They said the businesses have different strengths that will help both locations. For example, Fisher Lumber has a broader line of customer products, such as direct relationships with five different cabinet manufacturers. That will help bring more product availability to shoppers at Andale Lumber.
Meanwhile, Andale Lumber has a strong sales force that folks at Fisher Lumber can learn from, said Joe Fisher.
As with any deal, there will be a few changes. This summer, all invoices will begin coming out of Fisher Lumber in Garden Plain. There will be one website for Andale Lumber, Fisher Lumber and Fisher Lumber’s west Wichita building and remodeling showroom, Gallery Expressions.
However, customers of Andale Lumber will continue to hear that name when they call. “Andale Lumber” will continue to be on the front of the building. And Pat and the rest of his staff will still be working in Andale.
Jack Fisher said there’s something about the business that keep people like him, his brother and Reichenberger in the business.
“It’s making that sale and seing customers come back again and again,” he said.
Andale Lumber recently marked 40 years in business. The business goes back to the early days of Andale. It was located closer to Andale Co-op, but eventually moved when the co-op needed more space.
When Reichenberger bought the business 40 years ago, he originally re-named it Pat Reichenberger Lumber. He quickly learned, however, that too many people could not spell it and could not pronounced his last name. (It’s “RICH-en-ber-ger,” by the way). That’s when he renamed it Andale Lumber.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time the two businesses have had the same owner. Both Andale Lumber and Fisher Lumber used to be owned by Hank Comley, who owned about 20 lumberyards in a variety of towns in the area, including Cheney.
Reichenber bought the Andale location 40 years ago. The Fishers’ parents bought the Garden Plain lumberyard in 1955.
Both businesses have seen their industry change over the years as competitors in towns like Haven, Colwich, Cheney, Goddard, Mount Hope and west Wichita have closed. Today they rely on a higher percentage of contractor sales to builders and remodelers than they used to. There are fewer full-time farmers than there were a few decades ago.
Joe Fisher said the real benefits will come in having more purchasing power and saving on expenses like delivery. He said he recently saw an Andale Lumber truck with less than a full load on a Wichita street. Less than a minute later, he saw a Fisher Lumber truck with a similar load going in the same direction. In the future, that will be one truck making those deliveries. And it won’t matter which name is on the truck, he said.
Reichenberger said that the more time that passes, the more he’s getting used to the idea of the sale. And by staying on with Fisher Lumber, he’ll continue getting to do what he’s loved the past 40 years.
“Now we’re seeing a third generation of customers. It’s nice to see that,” he said. “It all fit together.”
Legacy Bank of Wichita – which got its start in nearby Colwich – is financing the deal. Legacy Bank also has helped finance many of the developments in western Sedgwick County that were built with materials from Andale Lumber and Fisher Lumber.
Reichenberger talks with a customer in the store he’s owned for 40 years. (Clarion photo/Fred Solis)