The business of lumber has changed drastically since the 1950s.
But Dufrene Building Materials has embraced those changes and has evolved with them every step of the way — all while keeping with its principles of hard work, quality products and dedication to the customers in southeast Louisiana that’ve supported the company every step of the way.
The locally owned lumber yard is working into its third generation with Paul Dufrene III operating the business with his children — the same business that his father, Paul Dufrene Jr., started in 1953.
Today, Dufrene Building Materials has four stores and a team of more than 150 employees. The family also operates Triple Son Wholesale Timbers — a company they started in 1989 from the ground-up.
Members of the family business said their successes stem from their willingness to adjust and adapt, while also having the foresight to take a few risks along the way.
“You have to be willing to accept change and adapt with the times,” said Paul Dufrene IV. “Where the business was 30 years ago is vastly different now than it was then. And it will be evolving for the next 30 years into the future.”
“You have to be willing to take risks,” Paul Dufrene III added. “There will be mistakes. But you have to trust yourself and what you know and be willing to take that risk for the betterment of your company. If a guy comes to you and says he didn’t ever make a mistake, he’s lying to you. We all do. But at the end of a year, you have to be able to look back and say, ‘I made more good decisions than I did those mistakes,’ and that’s how you build yourself up over time — by trusting those instincts that we’ve developed by being in business over time.”
For Dufrene, there were modest beginnings.
Paul Dufrene Jr. left his work at a bakery in 1953 to start Dufrene Lumber — a small, community-based lumber yard.
He owned the business for more than 30 years, then decided that the hard work of owning the lumber yard had taken its toll.
At that time, Paul III was in construction, but he decided to change paths and buy the business from his father.
When he did, the store changed from Dufrene Lumber to its current name — Dufrene Building Materials.
“Daddy came to me and he said, ‘I’m tired,’” Paul III said. “He was just beat. I was in construction at the time, but I talked to my wife and we decided that we’d buy it and open up.”
Under Paul III’s leadership, the Dufrene business has gradually grown. It started as a 2-truck, 3-employee business. But soon came expansion — first a move from the original lot in northern Cut Off to the current, larger location at 14502 West Main Street in Cut Off.
After that happened, next came a store in Belle Chasse, then Thibodaux and also Slidell.
Paul III said the growth was a total team effort of he and his employees. He said he remembers a time when he’d work long, tiring hours — a day and night shift both each day.
He also remembers grooming his children into the business, teaching them every, single aspect of the business — from sweeping the floors to stocking shelves to now, leadership positions within the business.
“It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice,” Paul IV said of what’s allowed for Dufrene’s successes. “Paul Dufrene III taught us through his actions what it takes to succeed.”
Paul IV said working with his father and brothers is one of the most fulfilling parts of being involved in a long-standing family business.
“It’s one of the toughest and most rewarding parts of being in a family business. We all work very close with each other and there are many irons in the fire, so we are all in many different directions,” Paul IV said. “But each day is a new day and it presents different and challenging tasks.”
And some of those tasks involve maintaining a bright future for the family business.
Paul IV said Dufrene Building Materials has every intention to continue on its longstanding path of providing quality product and service to customers.
And, of course, with lumber, a little bit of consistency in the weather wouldn’t hurt for 2019, either.
“Dufrene Building Materials is ready to serve and provide our customers with the latest and greatest products to make their jobs easier,” Paul IV said. “And hopefully, 2019 brings us sunny skies and less rain.” •