LOS LUNAS — A company isn’t selected as Dealer of the Year by the Lumber Building Materials Journal just because it has its own hot air balloon. A lumberyard doesn’t have to be the setting for an episode of the hit TV show “Breaking Bad” to be recognized, either.
While both of these accomplishments are themselves worthy of stories, the story of RAKS Building Supply of (Los Lunas) is so much more. It is a story of family, foresight and courage.
The family part begins as long ago as one of RAKS co-owners Richie Tabet and Kenny Trujillo can remember. Both family members (uncle Richie and nephew Kenny) grew up working for a small family lumberyard and dreamed of one day expanding beyond a solo location.
In 1986, they made that dream a reality and founded RAKS Building Supply in a converted skating rink in Los Lunas. Since then, they have expanded the business to five locations, including a truss factory, and have become the largest independent building materials dealer in the state.
After rebounding from the Great Recession, RAKS Building Supply’s sales steadily increased to those of their namesake hot air balloon at the annual Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival. Vice President Kenny Trujillo said the company closed the books in 2021 at more than $80 million in sales.
Approximately 215 employees work at the five sites, including five external sales representatives. In a field where builders work year-round, RAKS outside salespeople also take care of plans and specifications. Retail operations pick up a bit in the spring and summer, during which time RAKS hires an additional 10-15 seasonal workers, particularly for the large garden center at the company’s Los Lunas site.
“Most of our key employees are long-term employees,” says Kenny. “They say quality, price and service are key and some people can only provide two. We strive to be all three. Quality wood, good price wood and good service. This is what sets us apart from the competition. We provide all three.
Keep his promises
RAKS has established itself as New Mexico’s premier independent shipyard due in part to its commitment to delivery. Kenny says the company became known for two delivery promises. First, RAKS will ship anywhere in New Mexico. That’s about a 122,000 square mile service area that competitors simply can’t commit to covering.
But at RAKS, Kenny says, you can call from anywhere in the state, and as long as you’re willing to pay the load-per-mile charge, you can have a complete house package delivered all at once on a RAKS tractor-trailer. .
Competition in the region includes national distributors and a few big-box stores, “which sometimes get in the way,” says company president Richie Tabet. “A lot of people know us and want to do business with us because they know what we can do for them.”
RAKS organizes four tractor-trailers from its 12th Street location in Albuquerque, each with a forklift attached. The company also operates two boom trucks for drywall deliveries and has 30 other two-ton trucks as well as 15 smaller one-ton trucks.
The second reason they’re so successful, says Kenny, “is because if someone calls in the morning, we can have their order loaded and shipped within four hours. We keep enough inventory on hand to make that happen.
In order to keep delivery promises, you have to have the inventory to do so, an area in which they excel. “Between Kenny and I, we can see as far as we want and we’re not limited, so we can go ahead,” Richie says. “In terms of inventory, there have been some shortages, but we were able to get ahead of them.”
Getting ahead means buying smart to keep enough stock on hand, as well as managing turnaround times, which RAKS does so well due to one of the rail spur lines from its Albuquerque location.
“We have between 20 and 75 cars coming and going at all times,” says Richie.
“One thing we both learned early in life is that you can’t sell an empty car,” adds Kenny. “You must have inventory to sell it.”
RAKS has grown with the Albuquerque market, and an important aspect of the company’s growth has been its ability to anticipate and pivot to new markets. For example, commercial properties. While it once focused on single-family home builders, RAKS has taken on more commercial contractors during periods of major growth in the tech industry in the region.
Although the Los Lunas RAKS location is small compared to the Albuquerque yards, the store generated a lot of business when Facebook decided to build a data center there. As the social media platform has grown, subsequent data center expansion has kept RAKS busy while the company also works with a second Amazon fulfillment center in the Albuquerque area.
A keen eye for new markets also led RAKS to serve New Mexico’s fledgling film and television industry, including as the location for Season 1, Episode 2 of “Breaking Bad.”
“We actually do a big business selling product to film and entertainment production companies for shows here in New Mexico, and we were approached by someone from ‘Breaking Bad,'” Kenny says.
The crew originally wanted the store to close for a day for filming, but Kenny and Richie wouldn’t allow it, so the business operated around film crews.
Breaking Bad tourists still come to see the place, Kenny says, and every time he travels wearing a RAKS shirt or hat, someone inevitably brings up the sight.
“If I had known it was going to be this popular, I would have sold t-shirts or something!” he says.
RAKS Building Supply is a true family business, with parents, siblings and relatives all in important roles that contribute to the success of the business. While Kenny and Richie, equal partners in the business, have been at it for a long time, they don’t plan on retiring anytime soon.
“We’ll get through this,” Richie said. “I’m 78 and I still love it. We have been working on a succession plan for five years. We will have a gradual succession to our boys.
Carlos, Kenny’s son, and Todd, Richie’s son, will eventually take over ownership of the business. To prepare them, they both work from the company’s busy location on 12th Street in Albuquerque, gaining hands-on experience in day-to-day operations.
Bobby Trujillo, Kenny’s brother, currently leads the company’s IT department and later this year will be officially named the company’s chief financial officer. Like many family members, Bobby was involved in the business at a young age. In fact, he designed the company logo when he was in eighth grade.
Between 12 and 15 employees in key positions are family members, Richie says, including his sister (Kenny’s mother) who is still the senior accountant at 81.
“We were all pretty much designed in this business,” Kenny says.