C&R Forest Products
The lumber business is not the same today as it was a decade ago. Mills have consolidated and large corporations have entered the industry, squeezing out smaller middleman operations by selling directly to the end user. This has forced companies like C&R Forest Products in Santa Rosa, California, to change the way they do business and find niche markets to serve.
Today the second-generation, family-owned company stocks more agricultural building supplies targeted at customers such as vineyards and farmers rather than homebuilders. C&R Forest offers an array of products for pole barns and trellis rows, wood stakes, post and rail fencing, utility poles and much more.
The company was established in 2003 by four partners in Chester R. Wertz Enterprises: Chester “Chuck” Wertz, president, Sean Wertz, Robert “Bob” W. Haas, and Robert C. Haas. Chuck is still involved, along with his son, Sean, head of sales, as well as Bob’s son, Robert. “Before we started the company I had been in the lumber business for 25 years, 17 of those with Georgia Pacific,” recounts Chuck.
Specialize to survive
Chuck’s background has helped C&R Forest grow and change alongside the marketplace. “As more mills consolidate and go direct to the end user to sell products without adding much of a markup, we found we were quickly under more competition and lower margins — the building market has been tough,” admits Chuck. “To be a wholesaler now you have to specialize or you have to have deep pockets.”
C&R Forest decided to mix up its business model to stay in the game. “Before the recession we were selling about 50-50 lumber and ag supplies,” says Chuck. “Today, we sell about 70 percent ag supplies and 30 percent lumber. We just couldn’t be the middleman in the same way anymore. We had to do something progressive to try to be ahead of the curve; this is something I think is key to survival as a small business.”
Partnering with retailers as a true wholesaler
C&R Forest started as a partnership and extends this partnership to its retail customers, priding itself on contributing to their continued success and growth. “We don’t sell direct to end users, in fact, we’re one of the few, true wholesale distributors out there in this market,” explains Sean Wertz, second-generation partial owner of C&R Forest, who’s worked in the wholesale business with his father for the last 18 years. “We used to work for a Redwood company and since then things have changed. We’ve always had the ag side going, but before we did a lot more in lumber.”
C&R Forest now resells lumber, poles and round wood stakes in large quantities to agricultural customers, vineyard and farm and ranch supply stores and remanufacturers of wood products throughout northern and central California, Oregon, Washington and northern Nevada. Although C&R Forest is a small business with just seven staff members, the company has the capacity to ship full truckload orders to all 48 contiguous United States.
“We sell our products for resale only and in the ag supply market, this has allowed us to hold on to stronger inventory and a position in the market,” explains Chuck.
Strong inventory and natural durability
C&R Forest has one of the largest inventories of poles and stakes, stored across five locations, making products available for prompt shipment. Doweled and peeled poles are commonly used in ranch and farming applications. C&R Forest stocks a large inventory of treated and untreated doweled and peeled poles, as well as post and rail fencing, utility poles, wood stakes, split cedar, and redwood and cedar fencing. C&R Forest can also acquire just about any type of special order round wood.
Some organic products in the lineup are: C&R Forest’s Natural Eco-friendly Wood for Agriculture (NewAg) posts. These posts are naturally durable and can be used without the need for preservative treatment. The posts are milled out of western juniper, western red cedar and redwood trees, which do not have the same environmental disposal issues associated with treated wood and steel.
C&R Forest is also a supplier of dimensional lumber, including redwood, Douglas fir, Hem-Fir, incense cedar, western red cedar and ponderosa pine. Split western red cedar makes a great choice for producers and vineyards. The posts, rails and grape stakes made out of this species are both long lasting and eye-catching. The product delivers durability without chemical preservatives because the heartwood of red cedar is backed by its own resins, tannins and oils that make it highly resistant to rot and decay, insects and fungus.
Sean says C&R Forest has leveraged its ample supply of more natural products that appeal to farmers and vineyards to stand out from the crowded building supply chain. “It used to be a chain where the mill would contact the wholesaler and the wholesaler would contact the retail yard — now anyone can go online and find material to buy directly,” he explains.
Fortunately, C&R Forest has found ways to offset this change in the supply chain. By bringing on a diverse scope of specific products to serve the agricultural niche C&R Forest Products has found footing in a specialized market and clientele.