Business

For 100 years, Lusco has had formula that works

Lusco Brick and Stone owner Bruce Gilkeson and sales/receptionist Tarea Morgan in the company showroom.
Lusco Brick and Stone owner Bruce Gilkeson and sales/receptionist Tarea Morgan in the company showroom. The Wichita Eagle

The people Bruce Gilkeson sells to aren't the ones he does business with.

"We sell to the architect and the homeowner," said Gilkeson, owner of Lusco Brick & Stone Co. "But we transact business" with the contractor.

It's a model that works.

Lusco is a family-owned business that sells many of the same products it sold when it was established as Lumberman's Supply Co. in 1907. The company was commonly known as Lusco, a name that became official in 1927.

The company moved to its present location, at 929 E. 14th St., in 1976, after years at 242 N. Waco, about where the downtown post office is.

Lusco distributes fired-clay brick and other masonry materials, including manufactured stone. "We buy from manufacturers and sell to whoever," Gilkeson said; 90 percent of its business is with contractors.

As a small business with a dozen employees, "we've got to do everything," Gilkeson said. "We wear a lot of hats as a company — there are a lot of functions. The sale is one thing, but then you've got to make the delivery."

Lusco does not do installation.

Gilkeson, the third generation of the family to head the business, said long-term relationships with suppliers provide a solid foundation. "We represent some really good manufacturers."

People are surprised when they visit Lusco Brick and Stone, Gilkeson said, and see the range of products.

Weather and the downturn in construction have been challenging for Lusco, but Gilkeson remains optimistic. He said 2008 was a record year, and "I really felt pretty good about how we ended up" in 2009.

Lusco is starting to see work from public school bond projects, Gilkeson said, providing a "silver lining" in an otherwise down market. The company also benefited from work at Intrust Bank Arena and the Andover YMCA.

Gilkeson said he was never pressured to take over the family business. His father "always encouraged us to do other things before we decided to get in the business."

He's taking the same approach with his son.

"I've been looking at some succession planning" just in case, Gilkeson said. "I don't know what form it will take....

"But we're getting ready for the future."

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