The family-owned and operated Longwell Lumber, on West Steuben Street, has been serving the area for 95 years, according to its current head, Walt Longwell.

And the store’s key to long term success may come down to simple, basic things such as consistency and customer service, he said.
A building and construction materials supplier, Longwells now successfully competes with the “big box” stores located on opposite ends of Steuben County.

Typically new, large store openings affect other businesses for up to a year, Longwell said.

“It does affect your pricing on key items,” he said. “But people can shop the entire package here. And we are very, very competitive there.”

Longwell said his company also tries to reduce the impact outside costs have on deliveries.

While larger stores have to charge as much as $50 to deliver items, Longwells charges a modest fee to only cover fuel increase, he said.
“There is no fuel surcharge,” he said. “I hate that. You scratch your head and go wow! Now, when it’s above $3, you need to go up a little bit. But that’s all.”

The recent trend toward do-it-yourself work means another customer base for the store, he said.

“We’ve been selling Benjamin Moore paint for 85 years,” Longwell said. “That’s a perfect example. We get the correct information to the customer and they see the difference it makes, what a $30 gallon of paint can do.”

The store also relies on loyal customers and hopes to build loyalty in the future.

“We need to convince people to be customers, not just shoppers,” he said. “There’s a difference. And it’s important.”