First-time visitors to Fisher Lumber Co.' s Wichita location might be in for a surprise.
Instead of stacks of plywood and two-by-fours, they'll find the kind of finished kitchen, bathroom and fireplace settings pictured in glossy home magazines.
The company's Gallery Expressions showroom, 7355 W. Taft, is the latest move for a family business that started as a lumberyard in Garden Plain 55 years ago. The 40 displays make the showroom the largest of its kind in central Kansas, said Joe Fisher, who owns the company with his brother, Jack.
"We're Fisher Lumber, but we're more than just lumber," Joe Fisher said.
Joe and Jack Fisher's parents, Vincent and Marjorie Fisher, started Fisher Lumber. Vincent Fisher had managed the Comley-Neff lumberyard in Garden Plain before buying it and changing the name.
Fisher started out with two employees and one truck. Today it boasts 40 workers and a fleet of 18 distinctive yellow delivery trucks. Joe handles the operations and buying, while Jack sells to contractors.
The lumberyard and a smaller showroom are at 30010 W. Harry in Garden Plain. Through the years, the company has added several products and services, including cabinets and fireplaces.
More recently, the company has gotten into the countertop business — granite, solid surface and engineered stone — and added an interior designer to its staff.
The biggest change of all was opening the 12,000-square-foot Wichita showroom in 2008, just south of the Lowe's on Ridge near Kellogg. The displays include a kitchen that looks like it would be right at home on a TV cooking show and a bar equipped with LED lighting. A design kiosk allows customers to sit at a computer and work up their own design. Windows, doors, railings, moldings and other items fill out the inventory.
That showroom's opening coincided with the housing market's downturn, which affected Fisher Lumber like every other supplier.
"It's been a challenge, but when the housing market comes back, it will be a selling tool for the company," Joe Fisher said.
Selling materials for remodeling has taken up some of the slack from the new- housing market.
"Instead of building a new home, (customers) have refurbished their kitchen or finished their basement," he said.
Fisher said one big change in the business has been the growth in the number of options available to builders and homeowners.
"Fifteen years ago, you had two choices of interior doors. Today there are literally dozens of choices. Putting a showroom up, we're able to show more than just a pamphlet."
But Fisher gives most of the credit for the company's longevity to its employees.
"We've got guys who've been with us 30, 35 years," he said. "They're family, really."