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, and dealing exclusively in redwood, Albert was able to provide his customers with products not available at other yards. Albert also gained a reputation for going above and beyond 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 let them leave with material, just on their word 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 human relationship is what keeps our customers coming back and what’s missing from big box stores, run by huge corporations.”
The Lumber Baron’s Expansion
The Lumber Baron quickly out grew its location on Fourth Street in Berkeley and moved to Albany in 1988 where it has been operating for the past 36 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 the business, without it losing the family run feel. Currently we are doing a lot more reclaimed business. The reclaimed material we purchase is quality lumber you can’t even find anymore in new wood. Plus, it’s like your giving the material a second chance on life, which is kind of fun. The green building movement is picking up steam, although the new redwood we sell is cut sustainably. Regardless, I want to grow the reclaimed portion of our business. It’s fun, the reclaimed wood has a history, and the material is beautiful.”
Bringing in huge reclaimed lots from historic locations like the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and Pier 31, the need for more space became abundantly clear. Max’s expansion hopes 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.”
With his father heavy on his heart, Max worked tirelessly to acquire a larger footprint for the business, settling on a 3.5 acre parcel close to Richmond Water front. Development of the property, located at 1140 Harbour Way South, began in 2018 and was completed in 2020. With 12,000 square feet of indoor storage, a 4000 square foot showroom space The Lumber Baron looks set for the generation to come.