The History of Cramer’s Since 1915
In 1915, Russell C. Cramer had a difficult decision to make. He could continue to run his very successful grocery store in Mt. Pocono or he could say yes to an offer made to him by banker and prominent businessman Harry Drake, to come to East Stroudsburg and start a brand new lumber company. After much consideration, he decided to accept the challenge and with it made a resolution to have “the best” lumber company in the county. Our lumber company, now known as Cramer’s Home Centers with locations in East Stroudsburg, Pocono Summit, and Wind Gap celebrated 100 years in business in 2015 and provides quality lumber and building materials to area builders, contractors and homeowners.
In 1915, R.C. as he was affectionately known, knew that if he were to succeed, it would call for new thinking, methods, principals and strategies. He was the first in the region to provide covered sheds to protect the lumber that was stored in the yard. While all of the other competitors in the area had their lumber out in an open field, Cramer’s materials were protected from all of the weather that splits, cracks and warps the wood.
As fate would have it, this idea paid big dividends almost immediately. That first winter was a rough one in the Pocono’s with frigid temperatures and above average snowfall. While his competitors had a difficult time getting to their materials, Cramer’s materials were easily accessible and free of ice and snow, making it much easier on his customers. He was also the first to bring in west coast kiln-dried lumber shipped on rail cars directly to his yards to be unloaded right into his storage sheds saving hundreds of man hours and money. From that point on he would locate all of his locations, East Stroudsburg, Portland, Pocono Summit, and Wind Gap on rail sidings, eliminated costly and time consuming double handling which gave his company a huge advantage.
In the 20s and 30s, he aggressively went after building groups who had remodeling contracts and as a result, provided lumber to many of the big resorts in the Pocono’s which sustained the business during those difficult economic times. R.C. was always willing to do what he thought was right in an attempt to grow the business even if conventional wisdom said otherwise. That was best demonstrated in the 30s when he opened a brand new store on North Courtland Street in East Stroudsburg in the height of the Great Depression.
In 1934, Cramer joined a group of Middle Atlantic lumber dealers to form Lumberman’s Merchandising Corporation which today is the largest independent lumber/building materials buying group in America representing over a billion dollars of combined purchasing power. In the 40’s there were shortages of lumber and building materials following World War II as well as a pent up demand for housing. Once again the forward thinking Cramer had a solution to the problem by introducing U.S. Steel’s Gunnison Pre-Fabricated homes, which would soon be built on home sites throughout the Pocono’s. You can still see many of these homes in our area today. R.C. was also very active in the community serving as East Stroudsburg councilman, Director of First National Bank of Stroudsburg, Director of Pocono Mountain Chamber of Commerce and Director of the General Hospital just to name a few.
He retired from the lumber company in 1953, leaving the business in very capable hands of his five sons: Spencer, Clifford, Olin, Loring, and Berne. The brothers would go on to grown the company to record heights utilizing their close community ties to land many of the jobs for the Pocono resorts and the rising number of second homes being built at that time. They were visionaries in their own right and always seemed to be just ahead of the next building boom. Even with all of the growth the brothers were devoted to delivering excellent customer service and never wanted to lose the feel of your hometown hardware store. If you were a builder or a homeowner, they wanted you to feel right at home at any Cramer’s store, a philosophy that is critical to Cramer’s even today. All of the brothers were well known in their communities and were very generous with their time and resources. They all had different roles within the organization but in the true spirit of family, decided that they would all draw the same salary and they all retired on the exact same day in 1976.
The 1980’s saw a new generation of shopper’s emerged called the Do It Yourselfer. A rapidly growing segment of homeowners who wanted to save money and learned to enjoy the challenge of doing home improvement projects themselves.
To maximize the chances of appealing to the customer base, Cramer’s once again, made significant changes to be ready for the wave. Under the direction of a new management team comprised of Bill Cramer (Clifford’s son), Russell Cramer (Spencer’s son), Dale Parker (Son-In-Law), Ken Cramer (Bernie’s son), Michael Zavacky and Patty Depuy, the team rapidly made changes to the business model. Over the next decade, they added locations, remodeled stores, added new departments, and expanded the staff at all yards and stores, leading the company to record sales during that time. Much of the growth was a direct result of catering to the DIY customer, but the professional builder and remodeler were still the foundation of the company.
At the height of the business in the early 90’s, the company had grown to 7 locations. East Stroudsburg, Portland, Pocono Summit, Wind Gap, Moscow, Easton, and Eynon where they leased 3 departments in Sugarman’s. As the company approached the turn of the century, it was time once again to make some adjustments to the business.
Today, we provide building materials to some of the most successful builders in the area and are always looking for ways to improve our value to them. We believe that if we can help their businesses grow we will grow as well. In the fall of 2007, Cramer’s purchased a very successful local outdoor power equipment business called Sebring’s Powerhouse and we were fortunate to bring nearly the entire crew of professional mechanics and sales people with us. The Sebring’s crew, with their combined experience of over 100 years, makes Cramer’s Powerhouse one of the leading dealers of outdoor power equipment in the Pocono’s and one of the largest Stihl dealers in the Northeast.
Today, the management team consists of Ken Cramer – President, Michael Carmella – Vice President Director of Marketing, Kyle Nasatka – Vice President Director of Operations, and Steve Giannetto – Vice President Corporate Secretary. David Parker currently serving on the Board of Directors.
Throughout our 100-year history, we have tried to live up to the vision that our founder had for this company. We are constantly searching for ways to save our customer’s time and money with the products and services we offer. We would like to thank the generations of customers and friends who have trusted us to provide them with the building and home improvement materials. On behalf of all of our employees past and present, we thank you for your business and we look forward to serving you in the future.