Klingbeil Lumber marks 80 years of service
Since 1939 Klingbeil Lumber Company has been serving the Medford area’s building, home repair, lawn and garden and hardware needs.
As the company celebrates 80 years of building in the community, its owners look forward to future decades of growth and changes.
Competition and meeting the changing needs of customers has always played an important role in shaping Klingbeil Lumber and its place in the community. The company started as a lumber company and was at the time one of several lumber mills serving the area.
As the business grew to include a wide range of hardware and tools, they still remained responsive to the specific needs of their customers — both professional contractors and do-it-yourselfers.
Over the years, many of those early competitors closed or consolidated with other companies. Now, like many other businesses, Klingbeil’s faces its biggest competition from out-of-town “big box” stores.
Bill Klingbeil, who has 50 years with the business, notes that in many cases the Big Box stores trade size for service, which ends up costing customers more in time and money in the long run.
“Many people think that just because a store is bigger that they will automatically have the lowest prices,” Bill Klingbeil said. He tells of customers who have stopped in and noted that an item they were looking for was less expensive in Medford than driving out-of-town to a big box store. Klingbeil noted this drives home the need to shop locally.
Klingbeil’s is a family business with members of the Klingbeil family active at all levels of the business. Their other non-family staff members tend to measure their tenure with the company in decades rather than months. This gives them the opportunity to build relationships with their customers through projects and to give them practical advice on tools, projects and equipment.
Pete Klingbeil is in the fourth generation of leadership in the store. He grew up helping at the store and around the equipment and people. After going away to college he came back to work at the store.
He said that one of the keys to the company’s longevity is how closely knit the family still remains. Bill Klingbeil tells of attending trade shows and seeing the number of independent stores go down, not because they are unsuccessful, but because the next generation of leadership isn’t there.
With Pete Klingbeil’s children having the same experience growing up in the store as he did, he is hopeful that some day they may be the fifth generation of the family to work there.
Looking to the future
In recent years, Klingbeil’s has seen a growing shift into do-it-yourselfers. This is in part to the growth in Home and Garden Televison-style shows where people see projects they would like to try in their homes.
In response to this growing market, Klingbeil’s has an extensive assortment of equipment and tools that people may rent in order to do the job right. The business looks forward to expanding the rental equipment area in the future to accommodate more equipment.
Pete Klingbeil said that after they expand they will be considering options for the area of the store that is currently dedicated to rental equipment. He said one option that has gotten support is to have it open as space to hold lessons or for people to come and do projects. He noted Klingbeil’s has received positive feedback on these types of events held in the past and hopes to grow them in the future.
The store also looks to maintain and grow its lines of power tools and equipment. Pete Klingbeil explained that the Milwaukee Tools brand remains strong and is always expanding the range of power tools run off their interchangeable power packs. He sees the number of cordless tools expanding even further as the technology continues to improve.
Technology changes have resulted in changes in the store over the years. Bill Klingbeil explained that LED-style lights are expanding and replacing the compact fluorescents which replaced incandescent bulbs only a relatively short time before.
Whatever new technology or trends become popular over the coming decades, it is a sure bet that Klingbeil Lumber will be there to help make them accessible to the Medford community as they have done so for the past 80 years.