Burgess Lumber: 45 Years of Commitment to Sonoma County Lumber Industry
Article and photo by Rachel LaFranchi
Published June 1, 2016
|Orin Burgess, owner of Burgess Lumber, at his Santa Rosa lumber yard.|
Orin Burgess started Burgess Lumber in 1972 with his brother, Lee. Originally from Trinity County, the pair began selling mobile home set-up materials in Santa Rosa before transitioning to a retail lumber business in the early 80’s.
Orin Burgess said the business grew and grew until it became what it is today. Eight years ago, the brothers split the business with Orin taking the Sonoma County retail yard and Lee taking their Mendocino County holdings.
Burgess and his family moved to Healdsburg in 1984, and quickly became involved in Healdsburg Fair, the Millers Exchange and many other local organizations. Burgess has helped local Eagle Scout projects with materials in addition to donating to many other local non-profits.
Today, Orin Burgess’ Santa Rosa business specializes in redwood and cedar product lines, but they sell everything from redwood to metal roofing. Forty percent of the business is retail while the remaining 60% consists of sales to contractors.
Burgess Lumber sells as much or more redwood than anyone, Burgess said. The business also does a lot of custom cutting and milling. Burgess said that the majority of their customers are local to Sonoma County with some from surrounding counties, and many of their customers have accounts and are repeat business.
Burgess’ son Adam has now worked for the company for 14 years and is the second generation to run the lumber company. While his father focuses on managing the business, Adam is responsible for sales management, the computer systems, advertising “and whatever else I can throw at him,” Burgess said.
The business has grown to having 25 full-time employees year round, some of whom have worked for the company for 25 years. Burgess said, on average, his employees have worked for him for 17 to 18 years.
The company focuses on employee service and the quality of their products to differentiate from larger businesses. “Consequently, we have a strong customer base because of our emphasis on service,” said Burgess.
Burgess feels Sonoma County is a great place to be in business. Although he’s seen his fair share of ups and downs in the market, business is still good and he expects that to continue. While the county still has work to do on growth and housing issues which will affect his business, he said being in the lumber industry is often less challenging than other agriculture.
“Our job as a lumber business is easy by comparison to other forms of agriculture,” said Burgess. However, many of the regulatory and other challenges Sonoma County agriculture faces affect his customers and in turn his business.
Still, the lumber business doesn’t come without its own challenges. Burgess said the timber industry has shrunk so much there are very few milling companies left. He estimates there are four to five companies that mill redwood which make it hard from the purchasing point. However, Burgess said his business, like many other agricultural companies, is all about the relationships.
Burgess’ family has always been involved in agriculture. His parents were Farm Bureau members nearly 70 years ago, and his Dad ran cattle and sheep while he was growing up. Burgess said all of his friends are in agriculture as well, and he enjoys being involved in the industry. In his spare time, Burgess enjoys being on horseback throughout Sonoma County or playing golf.
For more information visit burgesslumber.com.