Belletetes acquires R.P. Johnson

Expansion brings staff up to 213, annual revenue to $50M

JAFFREY — Belletetes Inc. is growing. With five stores and multiple lumber yards under its belt, the company is going strong. And getting stronger — with its recent purchase of two new locations in New Hampshire — Andover and Sunapee — from another long-standing lumberyard and hardware business.

Jack Belletete, president of Belletetes, said that until now the company has been holding off on new acquisitions since the recession began in 2008. The company has locations in Peterborough, Jaffrey, Ashland, Nashua and Winchendon, Mass.

He has seen multiple recessions in his time, Belletete said in an interview at the Jaffrey headquarters on Tuesday. But none so long, nor so deep as the most recent one. The economy is changing, though, he said, and it’s time that Belletetes expanded again, for the first time in nearly 10 years. Belletetes has just finished a rehabilitation of its last acquisition, Ashland Lumber, which the company purchased in 2004. That’s when the seed for Belletetes’ most recent acquisition took root .

Steve Johnson, owner of R.P. Johnson and Son, which has hardware stores and lumberyards in Andover and Sunapee, was looking to sell his business. He was approaching retirement age, and though the business had been in his family for 112 years, his children were not interested in picking up where he left off, explained Mike Shea, vice-president of Belletetes.

Shea knew Johnson, but said it was the way Belletetes had approached the acquisition of Ashland Lumber that got Johnson to seek out the company when he was interested in selling it. When Belletetes bought Ashland Lumber , all the employees that wished to stay were welcomed to do so. It was that reputation that made Johnson approach Belletetes in late 2012 with the proposition, Shea said.

“One of his toughest decisions was to sell the business, and the second toughest decision was what was going to happen to his many long-time employees,” said Shea. R.P. Johnson and Son has about 35 part and full-time employees, he added. “He was happy and impressed with how we’d managed to retain the Ashland employees, so when he thought of selling, he thought of Belletetes first. And all his employees are now our employees.”

“Our philosophy over the years has always been to retain as many employees who want to stay [when acquiring another company],” noted Belletete. “And that’s what we’re doing with R.P. Johnson.”

After hearing from Johnson, Shea and Belletete discussed the opportunity. Though it was a great chance for expansion, it wasn’t an immediate or easy decision, said Shea.

“It’s not without risks,” said Shea. “There’s no guarantee that we’re completely out of the recession. There are a lot of favorable signs, but there’s still a fair amount of uncertainty out in the marketplace.” And though Belletetes has weathered the lean times pretty well, it did not escape the recession completely unscathed, Belletete said. Though they survived without having any major layoffs or pay cuts for employees, the economy was a definite factor in Belletetes’ decision to close its New Ipswich location and to consolidate a dry wall yard in Hooksett with its Nashua location.

But R.P. Johnson and Son was an old and well-established business, with an average revenue of $9 million annually, which would raise Belletetes to a $50 million a year company with 213 full- and part-time employees. It was similar enough to Belletetes to facilitate a smooth transition. Plus, the location of the lumberyards and stores was ideal for Belletetes, which has seven stores throughout the state. The new stores would fill the gap between their southern stores and the Ashland location.

“It fills the marketplace between Ashland and to the west and south, and connects the dots of our coverage in the central western portion of New Hampshire. And it was an ongoing, well-run business, and that’s our criteria for new acquisitions,” said Belletete. “We generally won’t purchase something that’s already lost traction. And these facilities are excellent.”

Shea agreed, noting that the Andover location has a state of the art drive-through lumberyard, and a beautiful millwork showcase.

The decision made, the stores were purchased and as of July 1 the businesses came under the umbrella of Belletetes. The stores never missed a beat, Belletete said, never closing and remaining open for business. The process of rebranding them as Belletetes has begun, and will be completed by the end of September, he noted.

“We’re thankful he thought of us and gave us the opportunity,” said Shea of Johnson. “We’re going to try hard to make it happen, and continue our success.”

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