New hardware and lumber store builds on family legacy
WESTPORT — Foundation is key in everything. From relationships to homes, a solid base is what’s needed to stand the test of time.
At Interstate + Lakeland Lumber, foundation is the business’ calling point. Established in 1922, the 97-year-old family business looks to open its fifth retail location after the Labor Day holiday on Post Road East in Westport. The move comes after the acquisition of Torno Lumber, which closed in April.
Sheldon Kahan, President and CEO of Interstate + Lakeland Lumber, said his grandfather Leon Kahan started the business with a woodworking shop in Greenwich. Leon, an immigrant from Romania, would then expand his shop into a lumber company run by family.
“I started with the business in 1978, and I certainly had a good foundation to work with,” said Sheldon, a 64-year-old Stamford resident.
Old-school ethics, like treating others how you wish to be treated, were key business lessons in his upbringing.
“The acquisition in Westport is all about our future,” Sheldon said. “We have a great lumber yard and we take care of the public as well.”
Sheldon said one of the most important things when building the house is a strong foundation; similarly, he applies this ideology to teaching his employees.
“The present is important, but it’s all about the future,” he said.
Brian Kurtz, of outside sales, started working with the company at 25 and credits learning how to build a house to Sheldon’s emphasis on hands-on teaching.
“Shelly has taught me a lot,” Kurtz said. “Before I was even able to step foot in the store, he put me with a framing crew and had me build a house with one of our top contractors.”
Through the seven-month project, Kurtz would learn how to construct from a builder’s perspective.
“I started that first week not knowing what the difference between a 6d- and 10d-nail was,” Kurtz said. “Now I’m selling million-dollar projects.”
Ben Kahan, head of marketing and Sheldon’s son, represents the fourth generation of family workers for the company.
“At 8 or 9 years old, I was helping in cleaning up the store,” Ben recalled, adding he formally joined the company a year ago on the marketing side.
Ben, who grew up in Westport, said he was ecstatic to have his family business establish roots in his hometown.
“It feels like two big parts of me coming together,” he said.
The new business also looks to convert Torno’s old hardware store into a state-of-the-art architectural design showroom, Ben said, which will showcase its products.
“It will show the latest from all of our brands,” Ben said.
Through nearly a century, the business has survived through the Great Depression, the recession of 2008, and more. Sheldon said the business’ continued success and perseverance goes back to that one key element — a strong foundation.
With the new location opening soon in Westport, he hopes to establish a new foundation for the storied lumber company.
“We’re a yard for contractors, but we will always cater and bend over backwards for homeowners,” Sheldon said. “We have experienced knowledgeable people who will go out of their way to assist the homeowners of Westport.”