SIBLEY—The Schnepf family knows how to build something that lasts.
That’s why Schnepf Lumber, a third-generation family-owned business, is nearing its 70th year serving Sibley.
Don’t let the name deceive you. Schnepf Lumber is not your average lumberyard and carries a range of materials needed for home remodels or building sheds and outbuildings, from the usual wood and siding down to paint and trim.
“We’re a lot broader than a box store would be. That’s our niche, all the way through from the basement all the way to the finished product,” said Brian Schnepf, who is a co-owner of Schnepf Lumber along with his sister and brother-in-law, Karla and Dale Hanna, and his uncles, Sid and Max Schnepf.
Brian, who is 55, is the third-generation of Schnepfs in the lumber business.
The lumberyard was started by his grandfather, Art Schnepf, in 1951.
Art retired in 1975 and his sons, Dan and Sid, took over. Brian, who is Dan’s son, took over the business with his sister and her husband in 2000.
“It’s just been around in the family for so long, you just don’t want to see it die,” Brian said. “All I’ve ever known is the lumber and building business.”
One big area of business for the lumberyard is in kitchen remodels, where Schnepf Lumber supplies everything from cabinets and countertops to windows and even blinds. The only two areas the family business has not branched out into are appliances and flooring.
Strong relationships with carpenters in the area is key to Schnepf Lumber’s 70 years of success. Unlike larger lumberyards, Schnepf Lumber gets involved with every project, collaborating with the customer and the carpenter all the way from drafting to a completed project.
“We pretty much help them with anything they need,” Brian said. “We refer a lot of customers, too. It’s a two-way street. They bring jobs in, we give them jobs.”
Expert drafting and design services is a hallmark of Schnepf Lumber. Many customers come in because they are stumped on remodel projects and need help finding an engineering solution.
“They want to open up their room to their kitchen and they need a beam supported,” Brian said. “You almost need a lumberyard guy in there to figure out how to hold up your roof first and how to move walls around. If someone wants to add a garage but their roofline is impossible to figure out, we figure it out.
“It gets us a lot of jobs, the experience we have throughout the years.”
That trust, combined with a small employee base, has helped Schnepf Lumber weather the ongoing coronavirus pandemic successfully.
The lumberyard has eight employees, which includes Brian, Karla and Dale. Brian said they have stayed “more than busy” keeping up with a surge in home improvement projects during the coronavirus pandemic, Brian said.
“A lot of people were fixing up decks. A lot of siding. A lot of window jobs that probably just were pushed off and decided to do something while they had some time. It all added up,” he said.
COVID-19 has led to delays in getting certain products. Outbreaks at mills last year reduced production and has contributed to rapid price fluctuation. Schnepf Lumber used to guarantee quotes up to 30 days. Now it is down to 10.
“We hold our quotes for 10 days and that’s very generous,” Brian said. “You might bid out a garage and by the time they can go home and talk about it with their wife and get a carpenter to look at it, the price has changed.”
There still are delays in getting certain materials. Vinyl windows, some types of plywood and even insulation foam for doors and windows have been hard to find at different times. It still is hard to get composite decking
“It was like the toilet paper thing,” Brian said. “You’d have to talk to a customer and tell them to make three choices in colors to make sure that we could get it.”
Working through these changes is challenging, but Brian said it’s not as difficult for Schnepf Lumber to adapt because it’s relatively small.
“Bigger is not always better,” he said.
He contributes a part of Schnepf Lumber’s continued success to the strength of the community where it’s located, with a combination of agricultural and residential carpentry needs.
“It’s pretty darn steady right in this ag community of Sibley,” Brian said. “We’ll always be pretty good economically right here.”