Decked Out: Sequoia Out Back

By  / April 3, 2018

Sequoia Out Back grows through outdoor living

Sequoia Out Back

Photos by Jim Greipp, Pau Hana Productions

It’s not uncommon for a builder to get into the retail side of the LBM industry. It’s a natural fit for a person already geared toward the trades and looking for a career that may be less physically taxing. For John Keller, owner of Sequoia Out Back, the shift from building decks to selling deck supplies came more out of a need for the right product and pricing.

As the preeminent deck builder in his area, Keller reached a point at which he needed to purchase lumber from wholesalers. To do so, he formed a company to resell the product to himself as a builder. Word soon spread to other deck builders and homeowners that Keller knew good lumber when he saw it, and was able to source it for a good price. Within five years, the lumber company begame bigger than the construction company.

Keller has since given up deck design and building for full time building supply sales, and for years now has referred homeowners to his contractor customers, who make up about 70% of the business from his main store in Hatfield, Penn., as well as a smaller satellite showroom in Warrington, Penn., about a half hour from Sequoia’s headquarters. “We want our products out to the users, but we don’t want to compete with our customers,” Keller says. “We advertise on behalf of them essentially by getting our customers to them.”

Early to composites, outdoor living

“Really, we’re melding two industries into one store. It’s the outdoor living industry with the building material industry. The building material end of it is bigger, but the outdoor living brings people in.”
— John Keller

Keller’s early entry into the composites market helped build a solid foundation to his decking sales success. Early on in his retail career he sold primarily cedar and treated decking, but Keller was quick to recognize the versatility and value of composite products. By the time consumer awareness of composites caught up, Keller had already established himself as a product expert.

“We were one of the go-to places for composites early on,” he says. “Not a lot of the lumberyards in our area had it at that point. Everything was still changing.”

Now in his 22nd year of retail sales, Keller has built upon the decking foundation by integrating outdoor living items into his product mix. In 2008, the company went big into the outdoor living market. Today, Sequoia Out Back is not only known for decks, but for deck furniture, grills and accessory items, fire pits, and outdoor kitchens as well.


indoor display

customer service

warehouse

Sequoia Out Back’s main location features four levels of decks throughout a facility on a 10-acre property that includes a 30,000 square-foot warehouse.

Deck displays

Sequoia Out Back’s main location features four levels of decks throughout a facility on a 10-acre property that includes a 30,000 square-foot warehouse. Each floor in the store is done with decking and railing and the entire store is designed to give customers the experience of walking on decking products that are readily available for sale.

In a sense, the whole store is a display. “Everything looks like a deck or a patio,” Keller says.

Atop the decking on the floors sits all of the casual and outdoor living products that are also available for sale. Most everything throughout the store, from decks, rails, columns, and trim to accessories is sold through the showroom, including the tongue-and-groove ceiling.

Another satellite showroom in nearby Warrington features many of the same products, and Keller hopes to build it out to be a smaller version of the main Hatfield store.

Growth on deck

While serving primarily a 70% contractor customer base, Keller says that doesn’t mean his store mostly sees contractors coming through the door. Primarily, homeowners are sent there by their contractors so they can experience the decking and outdoor products hands-on. Other times, homeowners come in the store specifically to get ideas and ask for connections to local deck builders.

“Our facility really helps everyone pick out products,” Keller says. “Homeowners come in and pick out the product and the contractors come in and purchase it.”

With 25 employees during the seasonably high summer months, Keller says he’s continuing to grow his decking business and is looking forward to expanding his satellite location in Warrington. Business passed pre-Great Recession levels in 2013, and Keller says the company has been growing a steady 10% to 15% year-over-year since. Even during the worst parts of the recession, Sequoia Out Back was able to maintain a flat level of sales.

“I think those numbers probably hold true to most lumberyards in our area,” Keller says. “All the roofing and siding places as well, they have a deck board they sell. In most cases, we stock the majority of that line and we have it in stock and it’s fresh. Everything we have is in stock and stored indoors.”

Keller is the sole owner of the business, and says he sees the company’s success continuing long into the future. As long as he can manage labor needs and make good calls on inventory, he’ll continue to focus on what has made Sequoia Out Back a success.

“The amount of money people are spending in their back yards is now more than it’s ever been,” he says. With that trend expected to continue, Keller is focused on featuring various outdoor furniture displays from low-mid, and up to high-cost.

“Really, we’re melding two industries into one store. It’s the outdoor living industry with the building material industry. The building material end of it is bigger, but the outdoor living brings people in.”

Read the original article here at LBM Journal

NADRA Member Spotlight Winner: ABG Outdoor Solutions, Walter Jones

Company Name: ABG Outdoor Solutions
Member Name:  Walter Jones
Member Category: Builder, Designer & Retailer
Location: Randolph, NJ

What inspired you to join NADRA?  I filled out the application as a continuing effort to build awareness of our brand and of our mission, NADRA provides great exposure to potential clients, industry members, and manufactures, we appreciate the opportunity to share our dream!

When did you first get involved with this industry? With ABG in NJ 2011, prior to that I started in construction in the mid 90’s doing demo and general labor, I started working for a great contractor in Berkeley CA in 2001 and that launch the inspiration to commit myself to the industry and spark the possibilities of being an artist in the process, By 2004 I had begun doing “side projects,”  decks as well as outdoor features became a staple in my life.

What was the first thing you ever built? I had a small record store in Keyport, NJ in the mid 90’s and  I was very much into music and promoting touring bands, so from time to time I would put on shows, so I built music stages and skateboard ramps from time to time.

We want to get to know you, please tell us a little about your business:  ABG outdoor Solutions has been around since 2011 in New Jersey.

We are passionate about making outdoor living projects come true. We can make just about whatever you can conceive come to life, and we try to make sure our clients are completely informed each and every step of the way. Whether we are working on a deck building project, a shade structure or a new outdoor kitchen or fireplace, we’ll work hand-in-hand with our clients to ensure the final result turns out as planned.

Our Mission: ABG Outdoor Solutions is committed to the creation of the most beautiful, functional, and emotionally evocative outdoor spaces, while providing our clients, an easy process, high end products, seamless installation for years of enjoyment.

I have been with the company from conception of 2010 brought the company back from California which I had been working yet prior under a different name. 2014 We opened our showroom in Randolph NJ, Coming Spring 2018 look for our online store!

We are averaging 15 to 20 projects a year, Higher years reaching 25-35. Our goal is not quantity but quality we’ve shifted from model striving to do a lot and focusing on a model that wants to do less with more.

We specialize in outdoor deck environments that include outdoor kitchens, shade structures, stone features, and automation.

How do you define success?  I define success as the ability to drive my mental, physical, and spiritual self to experience life without regret. Live, love, learn. While providing the ability to give back fully and receive fluidly…

In short, I work to live a life of my own design, while being able to embrace things that unfold, and helping others along the way.

You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

What advice would you like to share with fellow members that you have learned in your career? Make a plan, work your plan, always adjust your plan as needed. Adaptation is tough, but real. Also I am learning that you can only carry others so far, finding the right people is key to healthy growth.

If you could ask your fellow industry professionals one question, what might it be?  What drives you? Where are the most memorable places you have visited?

What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this? I would do Consulting for product branding and product development. I would also become a CrossFit coach and travel 10 out of 12 months doing both!

A little more about Walter: 

I am currently excited to be working with NADRA to help create an education program for the Outdoor Living industry. The Building industry is in dire need to recapture the interest of our youth as our successors, so much is at stake if we lose site the artisanship and craft of everyday functions. I hope programs like these will become a gate way to much needed change.

I live to travel and explore, I am always working to improve my health physically and mentally.

Currently, Bonnie and I are plotting out all of the places we are going to live in the world so we have to visit them first. It also provides me with inspirational things to bring back to my community.

Website:  ABGOutdoorSolutions.com & ArcadiaRoofs.com/NJ

Connect with ABG Outdoor Solutions, LLC on Social Media:

Instagram: @ArcadiaRoofs_NJ

Member Spotlight: Tom Jacques, Hickory Dickory Decks

Member Name: Tom Jacques

Company Name: Hickory Dickory Decks

Position: CEO

Member Category: Builder

Location: Dundas, Ontario, Canada

When did you first get involved with this industry? 1987

What was the first thing you ever built? A tree fort.

We want to get to know you, please tell us a little about your business: Hickory Dickory Decks started in 1987 in Hamilton Ontario. Today we operate in over 65 cities with franchises and corporate operated local deck companies. We have specialized in low maintenance decking since it was first made. We build over 90 percent low maintenance decks and have since 1995. In 2017 our company will build over 1,000 custom decks.

How do you define success? Success is spending quality time with family and friends and doing something you love that makes the world a better place.

What advice would you like to share with fellow members that you have learned in your career? Build your business and your life living by the Golden rule of treating all people the way you would like to be treated. Pretty simple.

What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this? Write or teach.

A little more about Tom:  I am blessed with a loving wife Sue, and 7 great kids. We love spending time together traveling and at the family cottage.

A note from Tom: 

Hello fellow deck builders and deck company owners. Hickory Dickory Decks has been a long standing member of NADRA from it’s very beginning. I think the founding of NADRA has helped get deck builders around the world to start looking at their job as a career and a profession. We create outdoor dining and living rooms where our customers can relax after a hard day, and spend some quality time with family and friends. Just think about all the happiness we have helped spread in each and every backyard. We also provide good, honest, well  paying jobs to thousands upon thousands of men and women not only building and designing and selling our beautiful backyard environments but also supplying and transporting all the material to jobs around the world.

I think this October in Nashville, all professional deck builders should come to the 2017 Deck Expo.  Enjoy a few days away from construction sites and challenging work situations. To  relax with our peers, share some great stories and a cold beverage or two, and congratulate each of us for helping all of our customers to Enjoy Life…Outdoors! See you there.

~ Tom Jacques, President, CEO and Founder of Hickory Dickory Decks.

 

Connect with Hickory Dickory Decks online:

Website: www.Decks.ca
Facebook: Facebook.com/decks.ca

April Member Spotlight Winner – Rick Wooton

NADRA launched a member spotlight award for 2017. We are excited to showcase our next winner:

Member Name: Rick Wooton

Company Name:  Crossroad Remodeling, LLC crossroadsremodelingmn.com

Position: Owner

Member Category:

Location: Albertville, MN

At NADRA, we receive a number of completed questionnaire’s from members seeking a spotlight position. We were blown away when Rick, a builder member, registered to become a SILVER level Deck Safety Ambassador. We were floored. So we reached out to Rick and asked him “Why did you decide to make the commitment at the Silver level?” Here is what Rick told us:

This was the first year that I was able to experience the consequences of an unsafe deck. We normally build new construction decks and porches instead of resurfacing or rebuilding existing decks. Within the first month of this year we were called to a home where the homeowner had built his railing 24 inches tall on the stairs and his young daughter had fallen over the side. A few weeks later we were called out to a home where the ledger board was incorrectly installed so that over the years it had rotted so bad that when the new homeowners stepped onto the deck it fell 10 feet injuring both of them. Within a week of that experience we were called to a home where the whole deck was nailed together with no hangers and 8d nails. The deck was literally falling off of the house. In a heavy wind the staircase actually came down onto the home. It was at this point that we began to see how important it is that everyone be educated on deck safety and that those of us in the industry must push for this awareness.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

When did you first get involved with this industry? 28 years ago

What inspired you to join NADRA? NADRA’s dedication to the industry and to deck safety, encouraged us to seek the NADRA seal of approval in our business.

What was the first thing you ever built? A tree fort. It wouldn’t have supported a hummingbird much less met the NADRA leading standard of today.

We want to get to know you, please tell us a little about your business: This particular company is only two years old, but it was assembled with many years of deck building experience, quality help, and assistance from industry leaders such as NADRA and Fiberon.

How do you define success? Success for me is seeing a family enjoying an outdoor experience on a deck or patio we built.

What advice would you like to share with fellow members that you have learned in your career? Treat every customer, big or small, with the same level of professionalism.

If you could ask your fellow industry professionals one question, what might it be? What are they most passionate about in the deck building process? Selling it, building it or showing it?

A little more about Rick:  If I wasn’t successful or have a thriving business and I lost it all, I would still feel like the richest man alive when I come home to my wife and children.

*A Member Spotlight winner will be chosen each month. For a chance to win, please fill out the questionnaire found here

NADRA NJ Chapter Spotlight: My Deck.com

The New Jersey Chapter of NADRA has created a fun program for their members. At each meeting, members put their names in a hat and one lucky winner is chosen to be marketed via social media. But not just that; the winning member is also highlighted here on NADRA’s blog AND in the industry weekly news brief! NADRA’s National Facebook page also promotes the spotlight winner.

We are excited to spotlight this months winner: Robert Lascelle, professional deck builder and owner of My Deck.com.

We wanted to learn a little more about Robert. Here is what he told us:

  1. How long have you been a member of NADRA? 6 years
  2. When did you first get involved with this industry? I started my business in March of 1986
  3. What was your first job? I worked on the Clinton Township road department while I was going to college in the evenings.
  4. What was the first thing you ever built? I built a really cool Lego house that took me months to build. It was pretty large and one of the best features was the deck that wrapped around it.
  5. Tell us a little about your family. I have a beautiful wife Lisa and two children Cory 15 and Brooklyn 8. My wife is an operating engineer for local 825. Cory will be a sophomore at Central high school and enjoys playing football. Brooklyn will be entering third grade at Franklin Township School. She also enjoys playing football and loves arts and crafts and has recently taken up sewing.
  6. What is your favorite hobby? I enjoy being on the water boating. I grew up in the summers on the water and have always owned a boat.