Home Month and Year August 2022 A Cut Above

A Cut Above

Superior Lumber celebrates 50 years


Superior Lumber has helped individuals and businesses with their building needs since 1972. Proudly supporting and distributing the products of the Canadian forest industry, Superior Lumber has grown from its humble beginnings of a lumber and hardware store to a multi-generational corporation that supplies lumber, timber, specialty woods and building materials. In addition to the main location in Edmonton, Superior Lumber also owns and operates Sedgewick Building Supplies Inc., bringing a wide range of building hardware, lumber materials, fasteners, tools, insulation, caulking, adhesives, paints, finishing products and speciality orders to the rural community.

The growth and development of Superior Lumber has been impressive over the past five decades but for the family behind the business, the most important aspects remain supporting their team, the family, each other, the local lumber industry and providing the best customer service for their many long-term clients.

It all began in 1972 when Bernie Stein quit his job as a crane operator to open a construction and concrete company.

“Bernie and Ruth Stein started B Stein Construction in 1961,” says Rob Stein, President and second generation owner of Superior Lumber. “Their business turned primarily into garage building. Towards the peak years in the late 60s they were building up to 270 garages a year.”

Rob continues, “To do this, Bernie would have the crews prefabbing walls and trusses in the off season and down time. With the volume of construction they were doing, he started to stock quite a bit of lumber and supplies. Some of the neighbours driving by started asking if he sold lumber. He thought why not try?”

The seeds of Superior Lumber were sown in that moment. For awhile Bernie and Ruth ran two companies, construction and lumber supply. However, that quickly got to be overwhelming. Bernie asked his younger brother Leo to help and would go on to sell the construction company to him over the next two years.

As for Rob, he grew up in the business but didn’t join full time until 1984. In 2005 he assumed control of the business from Bernie. 

“Our growth was limited by the old location, and something had to be done to get better set up,” says Rob of the changes he would go on to make over time as the new owner. “I had driven past a large facility that was for sale in our business community for two years. It was a dream location but seemed so out of reach considering the slowdown in the economy. I was able to purchase the property in 2017 and in 2019, we moved into the newly renovated current location.”

The company continued to grow and evolve. What started off as three people working around the clock is now 18 dedicated team members.

Many factors influence the company’s success, including the fact that Superior Lumber has always “gone its own way” instead of relying on the copy-and-paste method of emulating one’s competitors. One way Superior has done this is to bring in specialty radio frequency kiln drying equipment to dry timber that cannot be dried in conventional heat kilns. This has opened new opportunities to use timber products in ways not typically considered in architectural design. 

Always keen on working partnerships that fuel creativity, Superior Lumber launched Source Collaborative as its own division to bring construction, creation and design together. Source Collaborative unites local makers and creators, craftsmen/women, builders, trades and designers to create some of the city’s most unique projects. As a full-service interior design studio, Source Collaborative projects run the gambit from custom home builds to small commercial projects to one-of-a-kind items of furniture. In this way the abilities and many uses of wood and other natural resource materials can be beautifully showcased and displayed. It’s not always about timber but sometimes also about the many ways wood can be leveraged, from a support beam to a work of art. 

“We have never tried to be or copy our competitors,” confirms Rob, “and we typically haven’t focused on the ‘normal’ industry things. We try to focus on things no one else is doing. We have tried to keep diverse product lines to have a diverse customer base. When one part of the economy is slow another is often doing okay. That has really got us through the tough times over the years.”

Alberta is known as a province heavily invested in oil and gas, but the timber and lumber (aka forest) industry is just as vitally important. Not only does it help to diversify and stabilize Alberta’s interests, but the forestry industry also employs over 17,500 Albertans and supports a further 23,900 in related occupations. Revenues are over $7 billion, and buyers of Canadian lumber and timber products span the globe. In 2020 more than $4 billion worth of Alberta’s forest products were purchased by the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the European Union. One of the reasons why Alberta timber is so in-demand around the world is our province’s high standards of environmental sustainability and premium lumber. 

Rob, who procures wood from both Alberta and British Columbia, notes, “In my opinion there is no distinguishable difference between Canadian wood and other types of wood. However, we have some of the highest forestry stewardship regulations in the world and I am proud of that. It is very important that we manage our resources wisely, and to continue to improve our practices. That is the main factor for me in supporting the Canadian forest industry.”

Superior Lumber, as a firm supporter of provincial and national timber products, is affected by every change (economics, tariffs, labour shortage, etc.) that impacts the industry. Therefore, to come through strong for 50 years is a true testament to Superior Lumber’s “nonstandard” way of doing business, and their “superior” customer service and community investment.

But for Rob and his family, it’s all part of giving their best to their team, clients and province every day, even when challenges continue to require innovative solutions. 

“COVID,” Rob sighs. “While I’m not sure our challenges there have been different from every other affected industry, the price surges and crashes, along with supply chain issues, have certainly been the most challenging things I have had to manage so far.”

Yet manage he does. With the support of his family, team and loyal clients, Superior Lumber leverages 50 years of experience and outstanding leadership on all levels to pivot, innovate, make decisions and move as required. The ups and downs have never slowed the company’s progress, even when it meant moving in a different direction instead of blazing the trail forward.

For Rob, there are just as many high points in the company’s history. He treasures the memory of moving into the new facility and expanding the brand. 

“Working over the years there has been different stages, but overall the relationships with customers and suppliers has been most rewarding. Being able to contribute in part to a construction project and seeing it complete is very rewarding,” he adds.

As Rob reflects on the company’s history he says, “I think most people have no idea that we are a 50-year old family-run business that now has the third generation involved.”

He continues reflecting, saying, “Some of the best advice that was giving to me by an older family friend years ago was, ‘the more time you spend with your kids; the first 10 years will have an impact on how much they want to be with you the next 10.’ My wife and I worked hard to balance family time and work. I really feel it worked out and today we are a close family. It is rewarding to watch them learn their own unique skills and how it contributes to the family and business. I couldn’t be prouder.

“I would like to thank all the customers that have supported us over the years. We would not be here without them. Since our move we have met a lot of new customers. We really are encouraged with the shop local trend that seems to be growing. There are some amazing young customers and contractors that we have met. We really enjoy the creative ways they use our wood to create the most amazing spaces.

“Additionally, we have had a lot of great staff over the years. They are instrumental to the stability and growth of the business.”

With 50 years behind them and a bright future ahead, Superior Lumber is poised and ready for what comes next. A continued focus on supporting Canadian lumber, working as a family and a team, and doing things their own way when it comes to customer service will never change. 

What comes next? That is part plan and part being open to the needs of the generational company and consumer demand.

Rob concludes, “We have a few ideas we are talking about, but ultimately the future will be decided by the products that the next generation of customer needs.”

5110-68 Avenue NW
Edmonton, Alberta T6B 2X7

Phone: 780-468-3222 | Fax: 780-468-3297


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