As a larger family, the eight Radtke siblings have had their mark on family-owned-and-operated Pioneer Lumber.
“We grew up in the business. I swept floors and picked up trash and over the years, I think every sibling worked at some point during the summers and after school,” says Steve Radtke who runs the business today with wife Sandy. “As the siblings grew older, they went out in the world and made their own way.
“Dan and I took the lead in the ’90s until 2011, when we came to an agreement to buy him out.”
While the business’s foundation is built on the merger of two lumber yards by Steve’s dad, Herbert, Steve and Sandy have redirected its path over the years. The supplier of quality lumber and building materials to local contractors, industries and “serious or not-so-serious do-it-yourselfers” had to adapt during the housing crunch and recession.
“We have learned through the ups and downs. During the recession in 2009-10, we had to diversify to level out the business,” Sandy says.
“We saw a need to get involved in the more industrial and commercial side of the business,” Steve adds. “Before the housing crunch, we were very tied to one aspect of construction and that was residential construction. We had all of our eggs in one basket and when the basket broke, we had to go out and find more eggs. That was supplying industrial customers with their lumber needs.”
This successful arm of the business is led by their son, Mick, whom they are grooming to take on a more managerial role in the future. Additional family members who are part of the business today are their daughter, Mandy Cheeseman, who works part time as well as their nephew, Tim Radtke, who serves as warehouse yard operations manager.
“Being family-owned means failure is not an option. Trying to set it up for the next generation, we don’t want to disappoint … it makes you work harder. It’s in your blood,” Sandy says.
“Another part of our success is our core employees – some have been here for more than 20 years. They’re like our extended family,” Steve adds of the 22 employees.
The Radtkes continue to embrace what it means to run a business, while doing it side-by-side.
“We like coming to work and we like working together We have both been workers all of our lives,” Steve says. “When we bought out my brother, the business was trending in the wrong direction and I give all the credit to Sandy who comes from a manufacturing background. She’s a numbers gal and we set up goals and budgets and we met it every year and improved every year.”
“We enjoy a challenge,” Sandy adds.
Steve is striving to keep the company trending toward growth in the future.
“Since taking over, we have added employees and we look to expand our customer base and our footprint in Michigan City,” Steve says.
1508 E. U.S. Highway 12 in Michigan City