Wholesale lumber supplier 84 Lumber is in the process of planning an expansion at its location off Blue Clay Road.
In June, 84 Lumber signed a new lease with the Wilmington International Airport for additional land in its ILM Business Park. The added 10.8 acres will roughly double the company’s current setup at ILM and allow the airport to net an additional $202,292 annually.
The company just had a survey performed and is in the process of permitting, said Bethany Cypher, 84 Lumber’s vice president of real estate and development. Construction of the expansion, which entails an approximately 70,000-square-foot warehouse, should take a maximum of one year, Cypher said.
Wilmington general manager Brad Wilson said at the airport location, the company sells, of course, lumber, and “anything needed in the new construction process about to build new homes.” Doors and windows are kept in warehouses and lumber and engineered wood products are stacked outdoors, he said.
The Wilmington location is currently out of room, Wilson said. “We were fortunate to have property next to us that was available,” he said. The new storage warehouse and added yard space will allow the company to bring in additional building materials, Wilson said.
Current operations in Wilmington are supported by a 120,000-square-foot and 80,000,000-square-foot building, according to Wilson. “That’s already maxed out,” he said.
With haywire conditions driven by the pandemic, Wilson said the Wilmington store faced “unprecedented” demand in recent years. “I’ve been doing this for 26 years and we’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
These conditions were boiling due to housing inventory that continually crept lower over a 14-year period, Wilson said. “We were creating a deficit in the housing industry year after year after year. And that just created a lot of pent-up demand,” he said. “There just weren't enough houses out there. So that's been ultimately the driving force behind everything that we've seen over the last two years.”
When the pandemic hit, sawmills pulled back operations, anticipating a dip in demand, but the opposite happened. The shrunken supply caused prices to skyrocket.
“The sawmills were in catch-up mode for the next two years trying to catch up and that obviously, in turn, created all the historically enormous prices that we saw, not only in lumber but pretty much everything in our industry,” Wilson said.
An economic measure of the lumber industry, the random lengths framing lumber composite price, soared to a peak of over $1,600 in May 2021 after hovering in the $300s in years prior. It has since cooled off to about $526, according to MarketWatch.
“It has come down quite a bit, but where it stops, where it goes from here, I don’t really know. I don’t think any of us do,” he said. “But we have seen a lot of relief from where we were a few months ago.”
The Wilmington location supports about 40 employees, Wilson said, and the expansion may result in the need to hire more. 84 Lumber Wilmington now earns roughly 12 times the amount of sales revenue it did when Wilson first joined the team in 2011, he said.
Wilson said, “We’re very excited to grow and hopefully continue to grow in this Wilmington market.”