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A Tour Through the History of National Lumber

For over 100 years, National Lumber has been a cornerstone of Baltimore. We pride ourselves on our history and deep ties to the community, and the incredible companies we’ve been able to partner with throughout our time in business. We’ve been around to see Baltimore, and the world, grow and change. But we’ve kept some keepsakes from the journey along the way. Arnold Fruman, co-owner of National Lumber, was kind enough to take us on a tour through his office. It doubles as a museum to the long and interesting history we have, and the challenges we’ve faced along the way.

A Short History of National Lumber

Our company was initially founded in 1919 as a lumber yard. Our original location was in the heart of Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood. If you visit the area today, you can still see a wall decal with our faithful mascot Pop.

National Lumber original shop in Little Italy
A painted rendition of the original National Lumber shop in Little Italy.

Our company was founded by Alexander Fruman. Five generations later, the business is still owned and operated by the Fruman family, today consisting of father Arnold, and his two sons and co-owners, Neal and Kevin. Throughout its history, National Lumber Company has experienced growth and expansion, including acquiring  P.M. Womble Lumber Company in 1958. The company has passed through five generations of the Fruman family, from Alexander to Isadore to Leonard to Arnold, Neal, and Kevin. In that time, Baltimore has grown into quite a different place. The items in Arnold’s office show how a building material supply company operated in days gone by.

A Tour of Arnold’s Office

Many of the items displayed in Arnold’s office showcase how business was once conducted. A prized piece is the Dalton adding machine that served as the company’s only piece of office equipment up until 1933.

National Lumber historic typewriter

This adding machine was an essential item to the operations of National Lumber for many years. Arnold’s father would bring it home with him at the end of each day to keep track of the company’s books. While office equipment may have received an upgrade in the years since, this beloved adding machine will always serve as a reminder of what times were like before.

NL horse carriage lumber delivery

Another iconic call back to the old days, this image depicts how lumber used to be delivered across the city. Before box trucks and moffetts, we had horse-drawn flatbed carts where lumber would be loaded and distributed city-wide.

Throughout the office, there are more iconic and historic items, including one of Isadora’s business cards, a piece of wood from the legendary Wye Oak tree (which was once the largest oak tree in the country), journals of handwritten transactions going back to the 1940s, and more insights into our long history in Baltimore.

Recognition

Filling out the walls of the office are some of the articles that have been written about National Lumber and its legacy in Baltimore over the years. Feature articles from the Baltimore Jewish Times about the business accompany a write-up from the Baltimore Business Journal acknowledging National Lumber as one of Baltimore’s oldest family-owned businesses still in operation today.

Arnold’s office is a time capsule, allowing us to step in and appreciate all of the hard work that’s been done over the years to keep National Lumber as one of Baltimore’s staples. We’re happy to have the privilege today to continue to supply incredible builders across the Baltimore and DC metro areas. If you’re ready to get building your next project, contact the team at National Lumber today.

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A Look At Our Multi-Family Division

At National Lumber, we like to think of ourselves as partners to the builders we work with, helping them accomplish their building goals by delivering the materials they need. But we also understand that the scope can vary greatly for different builders, with larger-scale projects requiring careful coordination and planning to successfully execute. Multi-family projects are a huge piece of the housing construction market across the Baltimore and DC metro areas, as housing builders try to keep up with huge demand. We wanted to take the time to highlight our Mult-Family Division here at National Lumber, a team dedicated solely to meeting the needs of multi-family builders across the area.

What is the Role of the Mult-Family Divsion at National Lumber?

To explore the role of our Multi-Family Division at National Lumber, we spoke with Brian Fackett, a sales specialist within the department. Brian explained that the department was established to meet a growing need by multi-family developers for a team tailored to their specific project type, capable of managing large material orders and helping facilitate the delivery throughout the project. Many multi-family projects rely on rolling timelines, so it’s crucial to have a team dedicated to managing each step of the material orders and deliveries so builders can stay on track.

Capabilities of the Multi-Family Division

Our team is tailored to handle a large scope of multi-family projects, from small-scale consisting of only a few units to massive undertakings of 500 units or more. Our work handles different job types as well, whether it be remodeling existing units or full new builds. Team members are specialized in each build type. For instance, Brian works with new build clients to ensure their needs are met.

Products Supplied

Primarily, our multi-family department handles interior packages that consist of trim, cabinetry, countertops, interior doors, and more. Our Multi-Family Division works in tandem with other departments should our clients require additional items for their builds, from framing and structural lumber to windows and exterior doors. Internal collaboration allows us to organically scale to meet the needs of projects as they change and adapt.

Collaboration

A goal of ours is to ease the process of your project by acting as a resource. Our multi-family team works closely with builders, providing product staging, material tracking to ensure deadlines are being met, and consistent communication to ensure you always know the status of your materials. We believe that collaboration should always be a priority when working with builders.

The Advantage of Having a Dedicated Multi-Family Team

Multi-family projects are complicated endeavors. That’s why we believe it’s important to have a trusted, dedicated team to help you manage. In this industry, problems can arise. Having a team ready to meet each challenge as it comes is extremely beneficial to keeping projects on track. From field visits to comprehensive quotes to constant communication, the team at National Lumber is here to help you stay building. Contact us today to get started.

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A Look at the Construction Supply Chain for Fall 2021

With fall in swing and winter on the horizon, the construction industry typically prepares for a seasonal downtrend in production. However, extenuating circumstances have created industry-wide challenges that have resulted in huge lead times, high prices, and material shortages. Let’s take a look at the construction supply chain for fall 2021, the issues that are being experienced, and provide an outlook for when we can hope supply chains should catch up.

The Current Situation

Since the outset of the COVID pandemic, the building industry has been in a state of flux, with rapidly inflating material prices, material shortages, and labor shortages all compounded against a skyrocketing demand for housing. Today, the lingering effects can still be felt from the pandemic and have been exacerbated by other global supply chain issues. Material shortages, labor shortages, and transportation delays are just some of the issues currently afflicting the supply chain.

These challenges have led to a slowdown in building across the board. As highlighted in this article from a California news station, some builders are estimating that project materials that would take four to five weeks to ship can now take as many as 20 weeks. This is representative of the situation across the country that builders currently face. Newer crises are driving even further delays in prices and deliveries. For instance, floods in British Columbia, one of the largest production areas in North America, are currently hampering output and may cause prices to rise further.


Despite the current challenges with prices and delays, the outlook predicts a steady market. Industry experts predict that to remedy a trend of underbuilding since the Great Recession, the home building market should stay booming for years to come. Additionally, builder confidence rose again in the month of November by 3 points, up to 83, its third month over month increase as measured by the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

What’s Creating Supply Chain Shortages?

The shortages for building materials are just one piece of a larger global shortage of various products, from semiconductors and dairy products to chicken wings and herbicides. Building materials have faced a long trend of supply shortages stretching back to mill closures at the pandemic’s start. Issues with import slowdown and labor shortages compacted together. While the pandemic’s effects are still being felt, there are other factors at play driving these struggles, including “record-level congestion at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach that has spread to the East Coast, the widespread power outages across China, shortages of truck drivers and service workers, and COVID-19-fueled infections and restrictions,” according to Tinglong Dai, a business professor at Johns Hopkins University in comments he recently made to USA TODAY. The compounding of elements is having a particular effect on the building industry.

Consequences for the Building Industry

Consequences are being felt industry-wide. Supply chain shortages have helped fuel higher prices, slower deliveries, and most notably, extraordinary lead times. Compounding the issue is that builders are still facing huge demands from home buyers, who continue taking advantage of lower mortgage rates that have not yet risen back to pre-pandemic levels. Homebuilders are facing higher material costs universally across the board. But the biggest pain has been faced in the realm of lead times, where specialty or pre-fabricated materials such as cabinetry, countertops, and composite decking are all on months-long backorders. However, the shortages and slowdowns extend past the residential industry, as commercial builders face a similar downturn in production driven by supply chain shortages.

What Steps Can You Take as a Builder?

Throughout the pandemic, the message has been the same for builders: communicate about material needs early and often. Though it’s tough for anyone to anticipate how lead times might change or when prices will spike, the team at National Lumber does our best to provide you with up-to-date information as we receive it. By reaching out to us and defining what you’ll need for each product ahead of time, we can do our best to keep you up-to-date and stocked with the materials you need to keep building.

If you’re ready to keep building, contact the team at National Lumber today. Our expert staff is standing by to help you make informed decisions about the materials you need, and keep your project goals on track.