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Eric Dahlgren, owner of Dahlgren's Building Supply, sees lumber prices lowering a bit.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Dahlgren's Building Supply owner Eric Dahlgren and Laken Gortler welcome customers at their St. Helens store. Over half a century in the lumber and building material trade, Eric Dahlgren has seen a lot of trends in the industry.

At Dahlgren's Building Supply, off busy U.S. Highway 30 in St. Helens, business has endured the coronavirus but has recently been confronted with higher lumber prices.

During the thick of the pandemic, Dahlgren's has met the needs of the growing South Columbia County region by selling materials such as sheetrock, treated lumber, plywood, hardware, even animal feed.

While many businesses in 2020 were shut down or severely impacted by the pandemic, Dahlgren described last year at his business differently.

"The biggest year we ever had," Dahlgren said frankly. "Everybody was getting laid off, and there were major disruptions in the employment field for a lot of guys. They're sitting at home, they can't do much, so they decided to fix up their houses and their properties."

While that's good news for Dahlgren and his business, the not-so-good news has been the ballooning price of lumber during the past several months.

"We're seeing it all on the internet, and in articles, the price of lumber," Dahlgren said, adding, "Now it's gotten so high that we are starting to slow down. The last six months, we've seen unprecedented raises in the lumber industry."

In addition to higher lumber prices, supply difficulties have affected businesses such as Dahlgren's.

"I tell people my job used to be to sell product," Dahlgren said. "Today, my major job is finding the product, and then selling it."

Dahlgren continued, "Unless we have our eyes on it, unless we have the control of it, I'm not going to quote a price, I'm not going to promise anything, because of trucking, shortage of materials and trying to find stuff — we don't want to disappoint customers. If we got it, we got it. If we don't, we don't."

Lumber has not been the only commodity to increase in price.

"We sell a lot of steel siding and roofing," Dahlgren said. "They're raising the price about every two weeks, 6 percent, 5 percent. The steel companies say we're going to keep doing it because they're just having a heck of a time selling product."

Dahlgren, however, is seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel for lumber prices.

While he sees lumber prices starting to ease back down a little, Dahlgren said the wholesale cost of panel products, such as plywood, sheeting and siding, remains on the high side.

"We're just playing it by ear," Dahlgren said of the prices. "We buy what we have to buy to get by and take care of our customers."

Looking ahead to a period where businesses are opening and people are getting vaccinated, Dahlgren remains optimistic. He talked of supply and demand.

"I think things are going to get better," he said. "Supply is finally getting caught up with demand. There's more supply and less demand, so we're getting more of a balance there."

Dahlgren is pleased that his type of business can withstand a harsh pandemic.

"We complied with the rules, with all the masks and all that," he said. "It was kind of a pain, but we did it. Quite frankly, you couldn't go out to eat, you couldn't go do this, you couldn't do that, but you could go build something or you could feed something."

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