Ramiens Timber – From sawmill to award winning timber merchant

by | Feb 15, 2021

Ramiens Timber – From sawmill to award winning timber merchant

Awarded TABMA Australia’s ‘Best Timber Merchant 2015-2017’, Ramiens Timber has operated within its local area of Western New South Wales since 1960, offering its customers specialty products as well as a one stop shop for residential and commercial projects. Today the business is well known for its quality products and expansive offer on-site, however it has not always been smooth sailing for the Ramien family.

Business: Ramiens Timber
Owner: Max Ramien
Location: Dubbo, NSW

Ramiens Timber was initially established by Max’s father – Max Ramien Senior – in Cobar New South Wales before the Ramiens family also bought the Dubbo business in the mid-seventies. Both businesses boasted timber yard and Cypress saw-milling operations.

However, due to significant changes to regulations within the native timber industry in 2005, Mr Ramien was forced to find a way to totally transform his business from a sawmill and timber yard, to a retail/trade offering after the regulations changed. 

While the business always had a general timber offering alongside both of its sawmills, this all changed when the Forestry Commission of New South Wales conducted an assessment on the Brigalow-Nandewar region as part of the Forestry and National Park Estate Act in 2005. Once the assessment was completed in the Western areas of New South Wales, most of these regions were transferred to national park.

“This meant that most mills in the area exited the industry at this point, and we also ceased milling in 2005. It was then that we became timber merchants and we also established a timber joinery where the milling side of things were. After this we went on to build a warehouse where the log yard was, and we filled this up with timber.”

“I purchased the business in 2005 after my father had passed away and my brother retired, but I have worked in the business since 1980. Today our staff are a critical part of the business and my wife Heather also plays a significant role as our Business Development Manager and conducts a lot of our strategic planning for the business,” Mr Ramien said.

Evolving the business

Ramiens Timber has evolved significantly as a retail outlet after transforming from a timber yard and saw milling operation.

Even though it took a bit of adapting to transform Ramiens Timber from a sawmill and timber yard to merchandising only, the retail side has grown steadily over the past sixteen years.

“We have evolved the business by also offering more specialty timbers. Cypress is still a significant product line for us as we specialise in this as well as more and more Australian hardwoods, including the kiln dried woods and hardwood structural timbers as well,” Mr Ramien said.

Specialty timbers, including kiln dried woods, have assisted in the development of Ramiens Timber’s retail offer.

While Ramiens Timber services primarily trade customers today, it also services DIY, retail and commercial customers. Many new home builds and renovations are currently taking place in the local area which is boosting business as well, he said.

“We also service many customers far and wide, with our specialty timbers offer. Some of our specialty timbers are delivered as far as Sydney and Adelaide. Commercial work has also become a significant part of the business with customers often requesting a specific product or a hardwood that needs to be done a particular way – we can cater for all of this,” he said.

Local demographics

With the building industry continuing to grow and evolve in the large rural town of Dubbo, Mr Ramien said housing starts have also increased in recent months and there are also plenty of building projects coming up in the local area. A rail maintenance facility is currently being developed locally to fit out the new Regional Rail Fleet. The XPT trains are being replaced and the new trains will be fitted out in Dubbo with over 200 jobs to be created during construction, then 60 full time jobs ongoing.

“The main sector we service within the local building industry would primarily be renovations, higher-end housing, as well as servicing the farming and agricultural sector with people building and renovating their homes on their farming property.”

Housing starts and home renovations have recently increased throughout the Dubbo area and beyond. 

“Dubbo is a semi-rural retail hub for the western districts so we service out to Bourke, Cobar, Lightening Ridge, as well as Orange, Bathurst and Parkes,” he said.

Local competition

While competition remains fierce in the local area, Ramiens Timber continues to stand out from local retailers due to its extensive specialty offer.

“There is plenty of competition in the local area for building timbers that are used every day, including framing timber and primed architraves. I would say there are about five competitors nearby where locals can buy their timber from, including frame and truss plants, as well as Mitre 10’s that have a wide timber range.”

While Mr Ramien believes the business combats competition by offering specialty products, it also offers only quality product, a good level of stock as well as personalized customer service to local trade and DIY customers. The business’ customer base currently sits around 60 per cent trade and 40 per cent to a combination of DIY, retail, specialty and commercial customers.

L-R – Staff members, Steve Williamson and Darren Bruce, often assist customers with framing and structural timbers, as well as fencing and joinery timbers.

“We offer our customers a fairly large facility here, including an expansive drive through where our customers can drive in and load up under cover and out of the weather. We also keep an extensive range of stock that focuses on timber only, not hardware at all,” he said.

However, local competition is not the only issue that is concerning timber retailers at the moment, with a shortage of timber imports causing some concern for timber merchants currently. 

Continuing pressure on public forested land to convert to National Parks constricts the hardwood industry’s ability to supply products locally, according to Mr Ramien.

“At the moment there are just pockets of lines that are out including H2 framing which is in short supply, but they seem to be dribbling through still. At this stage it has not affected out business too much.”

During the COVID crisis, the expansive drive through facility assisted the business with orders initially, however, Mr Ramien said that pandemic had little effect on the business because all builders in the local area had permission to continue trading.

“Our premises are also extremely spacious, so it was very easy for us to maintain the required social distancing while conducting sales and carry on as normal. We have just completed a new website which has an online store and this has definitely extended our reach to customers.”

The expansive business boasts a trade warehouse of around 2000 square metres which currently houses all framing and structural timbers, fencing materials, as well as a range of joinery timbers.

The 1000 square metre showroom also displays flooring in profiles to any sub-floor type as well as the store’s decking range and joinery timber options on display including various finish, internal wall cladding, outdoor entertaining areas and artwork.

The on-site 1000 square metre joinery also offers customers access to the best in joinery timbers, with a team of experts manufacturing a range of custom furniture on-site including bench tops, dining and outdoor table settings, timber bathroom vanities and wine cellars. 

The store’s1000 square metre on-site joinery is serviced by a team of experts who custom make a range of products, including furniture and bench tops.

Future plans

Increasing demand for the specialty joinery sector is expected to gain momentum over the coming years, according to Mr Ramien, 

“We will continue to grow our specialty products, such as our barn doors and heritage work, that features reproduced windows and doors to match existing homes. We have also seen an increasing demand in timber bench tops, particularly for those who are building or renovating a modern home and often want to implement a natural aspect into their homes.”

“Modern homes can be presented as quite stark and white at times, with timber shelving and benchtops often breaking up this blandness. Timber vanities have also become quite popular recently,” Mr Ramien said.

No doubt Ramiens Timber is set to grow and evolve for yet another 60 years as more and more builders utilise the quality and custom-made products that the business has become so well known for.