From humble beginnings, The Lumber Baron has grown into a multimillion dollar redwood business through the visions of Albert Slendebroek and his son, Maximillian. Forced to finally “grow up” due to the birth of his first son, Albert started off selling firewood using an ad in the classified newspaper. From there, he moved on to selling 2×6 redwood decking and as he started attracting more customers he eventually rented space at a nearby location on San Pablo Dam Road. Unfortunately for Slendebroek each year, starting in late November he was forced to close down for a month in order to make space for the a company selling Christmas trees who paid a higher rent. Increased sales, and the realization that “disappearing” for a month every year might not be the best thing for business, Albert finally leased a yard on fourth street in Berkeley and opened the doors to The Lumber Baron in February, 1981. Business steadily increased and The Lumber Baron gained a reputation for providing quality redwood.
In developing relationships with key redwood suppliers, painstakingly grading each piece of lumber that entered his store, and dealing exclusively with redwood, Albert was able to provide his customers with many redwood products not available at other yards. Aside from the superior product he was putting out, Albert also gained a reputation for going above and beyond the call of duty when it came to customer service. “It’s crazy, some of the stories I hear customers tell me about my Father,” Albert’s son Maximillian says. “He would make special deliveries for people after work, on weekends. If people were short on money he would just let them leave with the material, just on their word that they would return with the money they owed him. They tell me how much it meant to them at the time, and how they’ll never forget it. I think this type of relationship is what keeps our customers coming back and what’s missing from these big box stores, run by huge corporations.”
The Lumber Baron out grew it’s location on Fourth Street in Berkeley and moved to its current location in Albany in 1988 where it has been for the past 35 years. Albert’s son, Maximillian, started running day to day operations in 2006 and purchased the business from his father in 2009. “My goal is to grow this business, with out it losing the family run feel. Currently we are doing a lot more reclaimed redwood business. Most of the reclaimed material we are acquiring is quality redwood you can’t even find anymore in new material. Plus, it’s like your giving the redwood a second chance on life, which is kind of fun. The green building movement is picking up steam, although the new redwood we are currently receiving is all cut at sustainable rates by small family run mills. Regardless I want to grow that aspect of our business. It’s fun, the wood has a history, and the material is beautiful.” With plans to expand, Max’s hopes may have hit a wrinkle with the sudden passing of his father Albert in July of 2010 . “He was just a real, genuine, good man. I feel blessed to have had him for a father. I still had so much to learn from him: about business, life, about being a man. It’s up to me now to carry on what he worked so hard to build.”