Taos County, New Mexico
Elisha Randall and Charles Howard Randall

Randall Lumber celebrates 80 years of service, success
(This article was extracted from The Taos News, November 15, 2001)

It's 1921 and Taos has very few cars, dirt roads and a very small population. A young man whose family moved here in search of gold finds another way to make a living.

Elisha Randall and his father, Charles Howard Randall, began an enterprise that would "help build Taos" for decades to come.

Elisha and Erna Randall and their children, Charles, Minnie Lou, John and Merlin, worked at developing a business with a tradition of quality building materials, fair prices and exceptional customer service. Through the years, building materials and technologies have changed, but Randall Lumber's priorities have remained steadfast.

When the third generation of Randalls -- Paula Randall Ervin, Britt Bland and David Randall -- took over the business in 1997, they inherited a staff with more than 300 years of combined experience in the building-materials business.

"Continuing the business into the next century has always been a dream of mine," said General Manager Paula Randall Ervin. "I'm fortunate my brother, David, has a master's in business administration and keeps us focused on our vision and goals. Britt has the building background and experience working with the contractors. My experience has just come from working in the business all my life and learning to do just about everything.

"It has been challenging doing business in this competitive environment, but there are some great programs available to help small businesses, like the Small Business Development Center in Española," said Ervin. "I've worked with Julianna Barbee, marketing and advertising consultant. Julianna has helped me tremendously with our advertising program."

The Small Business Development Center is located at Northern New Mexico Community College and services the Española and Taos area. The center focuses on helping new and existing businesses in all aspects of the business world.

"Prior to working with Julianna, our cash sales averaged 28 percent to 30 percent of total sales," said Randall. "Today, we have had a 16 percent growth in cash sales. We have implemented promotions and have a new advertising program that is working."

Exceptional customer service is a tradition the Randall Lumber and Hardware continues to emphasize.

"I remember coming to Randall Lumber with my father, Frank Del Margo, when I was a kid; this was in the early 1950s," said John Del Margo. "I remember seeing Elisha and Mrs. Randall at the door ready to welcome you and help you. I also remember seeing John, Merlin and Charles. They were always there at the store, rain or shine. Now I still see the friendly faces at Randalls with Paula. Friendliness and courtesy and familiar faces are why I keep coming back. Randalls has also changed when the industry changed and progressed with it."

Lawrence Mondragon of Woodall Brothers Construction has worked in the contractor/building industry for more than 14 years.

"I have been consistently shopping at Randall Lumber and Hardware since the early to mid 1960s," he said. "My dad, Berry Mondragon, worked for George Frank, who did all his business with the Randalls. He built the old Smiths building, the Granada building next to (Floyd's) El Taoseño, as well as Holy Trinity Church up in Arroyo Seco around 1968.

"The reason I like to come into and shop at Randall Lumber and Hardware is because when I walk trough the doors, I am greeted by either Bennie or Leo. Also, as I am shopping I always meet up with Hilario, who is very friendly and professional. Everyone knows me by my first name, including Paula and the owners. I know them and like them."

"I like Randall Lumber and Hardware," said Fidel Garcia La Fonda Hotel-Taos maintenance foreman. "I am in there three to four times a day. Years ago, Taos was small. It was not as big and busy as it is today. Taos has grown, and so has Randall Lumber and Hardware. But family sticks together and family keeps coming back."

Albert Cantu, former owner of Cantu Furniture and Hardware, graduated with John Randall in the class of 1955. The Randalls and the Cantus were very good friends.

"My dad, Philip Cantu Sr., and my brother, Philip Cantu Jr., and myself were in business selling furniture and hardware," said Cantu. "We would trade with Randall Lumber for a variety of items, including cement, builder's hardware and building materials. What keeps me coming back is the friendliness of its long-time employees, as well as newcomers."

Randall Lumber and Hardware also believes in the quality and expertise of their employees.

Frank Concha has been an employee for 42 years.

"When I came to work for Elisha Randall, I remember we sold rough lumber for five cents a foot, surfaced lumber like 2x4s and 2x6s were 12 cents a foot, and cement was $1.35 a bag," said Concha. "Construction methods have changed over the years. When a contractor poured a slab of concrete back then, you could use a rock to hold up the rebar. Now, he has to have rebar chairs in order to pass inspection. Through the years the customers have not changed. They still buy our merchandise, and bring in money for our livelihood."

"Being a part of the Randall experience has been rewarding for me," said hardware Manager Hilario Serrano. "I have experienced Randall Lumber and Hardware both as a competitor and as an associate. The Randalls team is committed and focused on achieving excellence at the retail level. The service level with 'on-time' deliveries is like no other in our community.

"As hardware manager, I see and hear all of the positive support our local Taos community is giving to Randall Lumber and Hardware. The changes in store layout, store fixtures, and broadened assortment of inventory have been well received by our community," Serrano said.

"Randall Lumber and Hardware has been supplying and supporting this Taos community since before the Town of Taos was established. I know people have a choice when it comes to purchasing and shopping for home improvement products. Randall Lumber and Hardware was here then, and we are here now. Most of the employees have spent half their lives helping Taoseños achieve their goal of affordable home building and home maintenance," he said.

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© Karen Mitchell