Paver distributor pushed, pulled to expand

Pat Conners, the president of Reno-based Tetrus Building Materials, is a middleman.

Boy, is he ever a middleman these days.

Tetrus, a distributor of pavers and other landscape products, finds itself simultaneously pushed by its customers and pulled by its suppliers to undertake large-scale expansion and quickly.

One of its biggest suppliers, Pavestone Co., a Dallas-based manufacturer of blocks for paving and retaining walls, plans a new plant at Mustang east of Sparks.

That means, Conners says, that Pavestone is looking to his company to open widen its distribution, perhaps to Boise or Salt Lake City.

The manufacturers that supply Tetrus also have been talking to the company about other sales and distribution locations throughout the Rocky Mountain West.

That, Conners says, allows the manufacturers to focus on manufacturing while allowing Tetrus to do what it does sell the product.

The sales effort, in turn,would be boosted by new manufacturing locations close to growth markets.

That would give Tetrus some wiggle room on pricing freight is a big piece of the cost of pavers and similar products as it makes the pitch for new business.

At the same time, says Conners, Tetrus deals increasingly with the regional and national homebuilders who have set up shop in northern Nevada.

They prefer to deal with larger distributors who can supply subdivisions in numerous markets, and that provides further motivation for Tetrus to expand geographically.

The challenge? Figure an outlay of $1 million for each new distribution location.

Figure that Tetrus needs to lease five to 10 acres for each center.

Figure that the company launched just four years ago needs to muscle up its management team to handle expansion.

Between bank lines of credit and the cash that Tetrus generates, Conners thinks his company can handle expansion.

And all the while, Conners and Eric Thompson, vice president of Tetrus, are keeping a close eye on the health of the residential construction market that's driving their company's growth.

Although the company is too young to have weathered any of the previous downturns in the housing market, Conners and Thompson have their strategy in place.

They're looking to strengthen their company's position in commercial and industrial construction markets to provide some diversification.

They think the home remodeling business is likely to strengthen if homeowners begin postponing plans to move up to new houses and decide to improve their existing homes instead.

How about strengthening itself vertically, perhaps by undertaking its own manufacturing? The subject comes up, Conners says, but Tetrus wants to respect the strategic alliances it's established with the paver and block manufacturers that are its suppliers.

Even as Conners talks with manufacturers and customers about new distribution locations across the country, he and Thompson are nailing more modest plans to open a satellite office in Carson City next summer.

Tetrus will be taking over a facility currently occupied by Western Nevada Supply, which is moving to a new location in Carson City.

And they're keeping themselves focused on what they consider to be the cornerstone of the business: "It's making the relationships, and then following up," says Conners.


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