Big John stands his ground
John Lindsey looked calm and relaxed sitting in his office.But there’s been lots of stress for him and others at Big John’s Building and Home Center owner over the past two years. Stress created by the impending arrival of big box stores in Glenwood Springs.With a smile as easy as arithmetic, Lindsey says he’s now ready to see what happens.”I’ve lost a little more hair – if that’s possible,” he says, smiling. “We really don’t know what to expect.”With Target opening last week and Lowe’s Home Improvement set to soon join the Glenwood Meadows family, Big John’s is one of a number of smaller businesses that may find the going tough in the future.”Whenever competition comes in there’s some apprehension,” Lindsey says. “I also think competition makes you stronger.”With 24 employees and around $1 million in inventory, Big John’s is facing a large challenge when Lowe’s, which will employ 120 people, opens its doors later this month.Challenges aren’t new to Lindsey.The 46-year-old Denver native has worked in the lumber business for most of his life. His father opened in lumber yard in Cedaredge in 1968. A few years after graduating from college, Lindsey decided to make lumber his career.In 1988, Lindsey leased the old 84 Lumber building on Devereux Road. There were skeptics that were quick to tell him it was a fool’s move.”Everybody told me it’ll never work,” he says with a satisfied smile, leaning back in his office chair.Lindsey’s success may not have been a rags-to-riches story suitable for a Hollywood script, but when Hollywood came to town, it helped get him on solid footing.”What really helped me was the movie “Flashback,” he says.The movie, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Dennis Hopper, was filmed in Glenwood in 1989, just three months after Big John’s opened. The movie crew purchased $169,000 worth of building supplies from his store.”They were looking for good personal service and that’s what we gave them,” he says, again with a satisfied smile.Service is what makes Big John’s go, Lindsey proudly says. He borrowed a simple model from a book: Good service, good result; great service, great result.”I knew success would come, if we provided good service. And that’s what we do,” he adds. “Service the community you live in and the community will service you.”The frustration of seeing the big boxes set up shop in Glenwood is more than corporate competition to Lindsey. It signals a change in town he always dreamed of calling home.”It was always my dream to live in Glenwood. My family would come here every Christmas. This is really a dream come true,” Lindsey says.Traffic, construction, big boxes … things have changed.”It’s changed a lot. Back then, it seemed a little homier and I really enjoyed it,” he says.It was a down-home marketing plan that launched the business name too.”I needed something that would stand out, something with a little personality, so we called it Big John’s,” he says, then smiles. “I guess it didn’t hurt that I was 6-foot-7.”The business has grown from a humble beginning of just five employees, but it’s still the people who walk in the door and the people who he signs paychecks to that makes the job special. “It’s a family. I have a couple of people who have been here for 17 years,” Lindsey says.It’s clear that talking about Lowe’s and big boxes doesn’t make his day. He’s facing a stout challenge. There’s a determination and an edge to his words when he talks about the big boxes that are literally a few hundred yards away.”We are going to give every effort to make this business survive and thrive. Hopefully, we’ll be better than we were before,” he adds.Lindsey has done his big-box homework, anticipating a rough 16 months. But after that, when the grand opening deals are gone and quality of employees starts to dip, Lindsey says he hopes customers will start coming back to Big John’s.Lindsey has already tilted his business a little preparing for the arrival of Lowe’s by catering more to building contractors. He has added a contractor’s desk and a pair of outside sales people, but he will still offer hardware goods and services to non-contractors. Lindsey also says that quality is right up there with service.”We’re carrying a better grade of lumber,” he says. Then he returns to his simple business model: “Fair prices and good service, that’s what we will continue to offer.”It’s the mystery that’s frustrating.”Preparing for the unknown is a difficult thing,” Lindsey says.What helps put everything in perspective is when Big John goes home and there’s a “Daddy’s home” from his 5-year-old daughter, McKenna, and a hello from Meg, his wife of 17 years.After 17 years of proving quality service to his customers, Lindsey hopes loyalty will count for something and believes it will.”We have some really good customers and I think that they will stick with the home-town guys.”But that’s all part of the unknown. Target is here, Lowe’s will arrive soon, and Lindsey will keep his nose to the grindstone and try and ride out the storm.”I’m just ready to see what happens. I’m tired of waiting.”After 17 years of a successful business, Big John isn’t about to go down without a fight.Dale Shrull is the managing editor of the Post Independent.
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