By Jim Hagerty
When a pebble or two trickle down a mountain, it’s natural to disregard them. Small rocks often find their ways down a slope. When they continue to fall and increase in size, it’s often the signs of an avalanche, much like how the U.S. economy began to indicate it would eventually tumble and bury everything, especially local businesses, in its path about three years ago.
First, subprime mortgage lenders began shutting their doors. Then, Wall Street felt the sting as lenders suddenly realized they were swimming in a sea of worthless securities. Succession would see the housing crunch hit mammoth proportions, and do its best to cripple the homebuilding and lumber markets.
As many materials suppliers were forced to shut their doors, one stood strong, proving it has the staying power to serve a market even during the worst of times.
Kitzman’s Lumber and Building Materials was started as a small, family-owned hardware store in New Milford in 1979 by Dick Kitzman. After their college careers, Kitzman’s children—Scott, Steve and Susan—joined the firm. With a combination of talents and skills, each adds individual flair that has helped grow the business into a family of companies that serve the gamut of home-building material needs.
The Rockford lumber yard, at 1319 Kilburn Ave., is one of the company’s main hubs. Kitzman Design Studio, in Edgebrook Shopping Center, is a full-scale kitchen and bath design outlet. Kitzman’s Dixon location is a complete home center, lumber yard and pallet-manufacturing operation. The Kitzman family of companies also includes a recently-acquired lumber yard at 1616 Windsor Road in Loves Park, the location formerly occupied by Stock Building Supply.
For Kitzman’s, moving ahead while many suppliers are making drastic cutbacks or closing their doors is only possible by treating customers like members of their own family.
“We are focused on service and quality and continue to be there when our customers, retail and commercial, need us,” Susan Kitzman-Erickson, who operates the design center, said. “Whether someone needs a 50-cent screw or places a $50,000 lumber order, all of our customers are treated with the highest level of service.”
Service, Kitzman-Erickson noted, isn’t anything new to the family. Since 1979, Kitzman trucks and service vehicles have logged thousands of miles visiting job sites, delivering materials and meeting with customers. It’s also not uncommon to see a family member loading trucks or making deliveries.
“My dad, even though we have a team of yard employees, will still go out in a suit and tie and load a truck if he’s needed,” she said. “He cares that much about our customers. That work ethic and pride was handed down to us over the years.”
The Kitzman family of companies can be reached by calling (815) 965-6865 or visiting online at www.kitzmans.com.
To recommend a local business to be featured in this column, e-mail Jim Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org with “What’s Local” in the subject line. Or, contact The Rock River Times’ office at (815) 964-9767.
From the October 21-27, 2009 issue