Construction boom, data focus help Spahn & Rose grow through pandemic

Spahn & Rose

Location: 250 Harrison St., Dubuque.

Hours: Monday-Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday: 8 a.m. to noon, closed Sundays.


Phone number: 563-583-6481.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to shrink, Spahn & Rose Lumber Co. in Dubuque has continued to grow.

Spahn & Rose has opened three locations in the past three years — a time when many companies have been forced to shutter operations — including a new operation in Marietta, Ga. The business also has seen its revenues increase, reaching $156 million in revenue in 2020 and $190 million in 2021.

Today, Spahn & Rose operates 23 retail locations, a corporate office and a distribution center and employs 325 people throughout the Midwest and beyond. The company primarily sells lumber and building materials but also offers other services, including cabinetry design.

The company’s success hasn’t gone unrecognized. LBM Journal, a media company focusing on the lumber and building materials industry, named Spahn & Rose its 2022 Dealer of the Year.

Company President Dave Davis said Spahn & Rose’s success partially can be attributed to a boom in the construction industry during the pandemic. However, it stems from a more fundamental internal shift the company made about four years ago, one focused on data analysis that, like the lumber the company sells, has provided solid framework for future growth.

“We have to look at managing things more effectively,” Davis said. “You live and die by the reporting that you get at your locations.”

Spahn & Rose was founded as a lumber supply yard in Dubuque in 1904. It since has expanded operations throughout the Midwest, but primarily operates out of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, providing lumber and building supplies to contractors, developers and home remodelers. Its headquarters, distribution center and main showroom are located in Dubuque.

In 2018, shortly after Davis took over as president, Spahn & Rose began replacing its enterprise resource planning software, which the business uses to collect, store and analyze business data coming from each of its retail locations. Davis said that software immediately helped the company better understand the inner workings of the company.

Information on sales trends, deliveries and supplies all became the subject of scrutiny from company officials now able to better analyze the needs and benefits of each location.

“We have much better visibility of the difference between our lumber yards,” said Steve Parisee, vice president of sales and marketing.

This has led the company to improve overall operational efficiency. Davis pointed to improvements in tracking customer orders and better management of each retail location’s inventory as benefits of the company’s new data-driven approach.

The company’s bend toward data analysis means lumber deliveries are tracked more easily and building material supplies are better distributed to each facility.

“If we had 100 extra of something, we could say, ‘Let’s put it on one of our trucks and send it to a location that needs it,’” Davis said. “Instead of buying them again, we have the visibility to better move that around.”

That same level of analysis has played into the company’s recent acquisitions. During the past three years, Spahn & Rose has purchased Metro Building Products in Marietta, Ga., Dunn Lumber in Lake Geneva, Wis., and Moeller & Walter in Reinbeck, Iowa.

Davis said these purchases were made based on informed analysis of each business and a determination that their operations largely fit within the operational framework of Spahn & Rose.

“We are not about making risky purchases that might not pan out,” Davis said. “These companies fit well within our existing infrastructure, and we knew they would make a good fit.”

Davis said the diversity of new acquisitions has made the company more adaptable. Though more than 800 miles away from its headquarters, Spahn & Rose’s Georgia location isn’t impacted by the Midwestern weather that sometimes hinders operations.

“If there is snow at one of our locations in the Midwest, there is snow at all of them,” Davis said. “Our location in Georgia doesn’t have to worry about that.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Spahn & Rose immediately began planning contingencies for how it would adapt to the new market. Davis said initial plans were to focus on reducing costs to offset declines in revenue, but that didn’t come to pass. Mass shutdowns in cities throughout the country resulted in a boom in home remodeling, and overall construction industry remained consistent, Davis said.

“The past two years have been good for the industry,” Davis said. “Lumber prices went crazy, so what we really had to cope with was not being able to find enough inventory to sell.”

Parisee attributed the success of Spahn & Rose to its committed management team and its ability to adapt to the changes in the industry.

“It has made us stronger,” Parisee said. “We have really committed teams that have helped us employ the best practices.”

Davis said he intends to maintain the company’s upward trajectory through continued investment in Iowa and making future acquisitions. A strong foundation has been laid, and for Davis, the potential growth of Spahn & Rose only is beginning.

“We’re now one of the major companies in our industry,” Davis said. “We are at a point where we need to take this kind of approach in order to see continued success.”