“I always knew this kind of business would be a success here,” said Eddie Abold, Oglala and sole proprietor of Pine Ridge Building Products, on Highway 18 just east of Pine Ridge village. He didn’t rush into a start-up, though. Before opening his doors in September 2011 with a loan from Lakota Funds, a local community development financial institution, Abold learned his trade by working in a lumberyard in Gordon, Nebraska, then in the procurement arm of the tribal housing department.
Local builders are pleased to have a local supplier. “Before this store opened, I had to haul my own lumber to the reservation,” said Leonard Lone Hill, Oglala. “That meant additional costs driving up bids we submitted on projects.”
During a recent visit, Pine Ridge Building Products had a constant flow of customers, including workers from tribal projects, who ordered plumbing materials. “There could be more business from the tribe, though,” Abold said. “A lot of tribal employees tend to call off-reservation vendors they’ve used for years, and breaking old habits is tough. But my prices are usually within pennies of those of major stores, and I even beat some.”
If you count all the costs associated with acquiring goods in this region of long drives and widely separated settlements, customers do even better at his store. “If you go to Gordon, Nebraska or Rapid City, South Dakota for supplies, you’ve got to add gas money and your time to the cost of an item,” Abold pointed out. “So, in fact, the articles purchased there become very expensive.”
People also benefit from Abold’s friendly advice. “Our twin logos, painted on the front of our building, are a tipi, which stands for the home, and a hand, which stands for helping hands,” he said. “We explain and assist and make customers feel comfortable with using our products.”
Within five years, Abold hopes to have another store in Kyle, South Dakota on the north end of the reservation, and to begin constructing two- to four–bedroom homes on property around the Pine Ridge store. Building homes will help alleviate the reservation housing shortage and give him the opportunity to teach carpentry and other skills to youngsters, thereby preparing the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs.