The Standale Story
On March 1, 1952, Ken Holtvluwer joined John Koppenol as co-owner of Standale Lumber and Supply Company. Ken had approached his father for a loan to get started and was asked, “What do you know about the lumber business?” His reply was, “Not a thing, but I can sure learn!” That response typified the history of the company.
By 1954, Ken had learned enough to triple the business and buy out his partner. Among the neighbors in what was then known as the Standale Business District, were Thompson Hardware (now the floor covering department at Standale Interiors) and Bergman Lumber (today’s Standale Home Center). On April 3, 1956, a tornado roared through and within a few minutes that business district no longer existed. Despite insufficient insurance, Ken’s faith prevailed and a few days later, with the special help of Abe Krissoff, owner of Empire Lumber in Grandville, a small plywood shed with a sign saying “Standale Lumber….Open for Business” sprang from the rubble and debris. Soon after, the building now housing Standale Interiors was built, making Standale the youngest and smallest of Kent County’s 33 lumber yards, 22 of which were members of the fledgling Grand Rapids Retail Lumber Dealers Association.
The Standale yard expanded in the early ‘60’s with the purchase of the Bergman Lumber property and interest in a small yard in Holland. Palm Sunday in 1965 brought another tornado, destroying a large lumber storage shed. Ken had learned from the past and, being adequately insured, was soon able to rebuild and restock. Notable advances in the ‘60’s included Standale’s first forklifts and dump trucks, the first outside salesman and the opening of the first yard that was part of a large chain, Wickes Lumber.
Standale Lumber grew at a dramatic pace in the 1970’s in spite of Wickes’ determination to “bury” them, plus losing one building to fire and another to heavy snowfall. New divisions of carpet, furniture and pre-hung doors were created. Sales and employee count tripled, more property was acquired, buildings were built, and a large fleet of semi and smaller trucks were shipping material to five states. An unofficial motto was coined, “If we can’t do it, don’t bother calling anybody else.”
The ‘80’s brought challenges – interest rates climbed, housing starts fell. The Standale Home Center had opened in 1980 with cabinetry to follow. Therefore, carpet and furniture were promoted more and it helped, but by the end of 1982 business had declined by half. Lumberyards were failing with only six of the 33 from the ‘50’s still remaining. The future looked bleak until the elections in November of ’82 brought hope for the building industry. Confidence returned and Standale made a dramatic comeback by 1984. The purchase of Standale’s first point-of-sale computer system in 1987 brought the company into the world of technology. Near the end of that decade, it became apparent that more space was needed for the Contractor Division. October of 1989 brought the ideal solution.
The Empire Distribution facility in Grandville became available….a virtually perfect fit for the Contractor Lumberyard. Here was the same company that helped Standale survive the 1956 tornado, providing the opportunity for its growth into the ‘90’s. After several months spent remodeling the office building and moving the Empire operation to their new location in Zeeland and the Standale inventory to Grandville, the new yard opened for business on May 7, 1990.
The remainder of the ‘90s and beginning of the new century brought significant changes in the industry as well as for Standale. Additional employees were hired; the company’s real estate holdings grew and improved; the company became more technologically advanced; policies and procedures were refined; and shared ownership became an option for employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 1995. During the fall, winter and spring of 1998-1999, Standale Carpet and Furniture, located at 4046 Lake Michigan Drive, was totally remodeled – inside and outside, front to back – in order to accommodate the ever growing cabinetry market. On Tuesday, June 8, 1999, Standale Interiors was officially unveiled.
The 50th Anniversary of The Standale Group was celebrated during 2002 by making a significant contribution to the Inner City Christian Federation with the Hammer for Housing Project. The company also donated almost $100,000 in products, supplies and labor, with the help of customer donations, to construct a home for the 2002 Fall Parade of Homes. The first ever mission statement and value statements were introduced.
The first decade of the 21st century was probably as tumultuous as the previous 50 years combined for the employee owners of Standale. Shortly after the 50th anniversary celebration, the building industry once again started declining. Fortunately remodeling picked up dramatically so Standale Interiors could carry more of the load. Then the economy took another drastic nosedive in the fall of 2007. With the US economy plummeting, words such as recession, layoff, downsizing and budgets cuts became commonplace and all too real. Over time, the Standale workforce was cut by one third – the first time the company ever had to lay off employees! Standale employee owners had to determine what is real and what is real important. “While life throws curveballs that might cause a struggle, anger and frustration, ultimately the curveballs won’t kill you but actually strengthen your resolve.” The Standale employee owners of today are the most knowledgeable, professional and dedicated workforce ever.
Customer-centric has been a way of life for Standale employees from day one. Owner Ken Holtvluwer would take your lumber order, load your order, then deliver your order – often times not until AFTER the retail store closed at 5pm. That customer-centric philosophy continues today in each and every department; from the initial design all the way through the placement of the last accessory.
On Christmas Eve 2010, founder Ken Holtvluwer, “Pa” to many, was called to his eternal home. He is missed every single day. Prior to his decline starting in March 2010, Ken still came to the office at least three days a week. His Faith carried him through much turmoil over the years and it’s in his honor, that the employee owners anticipate celebrating 60 years in business on March 1, 2012.
Many lessons have been learned over the years. Standale is grateful for all the blessings that have kept us going and we look forward to continued growth and new lessons to be learned while working together as a devoted team celebrating our 60th anniversary.
Whether you’re a builder, remodeler or home owner, you owe it to yourself to check out our extensive product line that we offer at affordable, competitive prices.
- Home Design Planning
- Rough Lumber
- Roofing and Siding
- Doors and Windows
- Interiors doors and custom trim
- Decking and Railing
- Pole Barns for any use
Our service area is not only the Greater Grand Rapids area or even just West Michigan. We deliver anywhere in the state of Michigan as well as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and even as far away as Nebraska.