In September 1967, Hurricane Beulah slammed into south Texas, causing massive flooding to homes. Shortly after, Valley Cash and Carry Building Materials stores opened in Pharr and San Benito, Texas, to help residents restore their damaged homes. In 1975, Ira Matt became owner and renamed the business Matt’s Cash & Carry Building Materials. Danny Smith was hired to help manage the two stores.
In 2002, Danny and his wife Diana Smith purchased the business. Today, Danny serves as CEO, Diana handles accounts payable and they get major help from their three sons: Ben, Isaac and Jeremy.
In the early days, Danny was instrumental in deciding that Matt’s should be the first local LBM store to cater to the Hispanic community, not liking the discrimination he saw toward Hispanic customers who didn’t have a lot of money. As son Isaac explains, “My father always taught us to treat everyone the same.”
Danny passed on this retail philosophy to his sons: “If we don’t earn the business, we don’t deserve the business. Do everything with integrity. Do it the right way. The only way to be successful is to please our customers.”
Ben, the youngest son, serves as the general manager for their third store in Palmview, which opened new in 2015. The 25,000-square-foot store features modern fixtures, innovative merchandising with a nostalgic feel, and a fully staffed contractor counter. The front section is stocked with common contractor items for convenience. Sales for the new store have grown every month.
Isaac started working in the lumberyard at age 15, eventually taking on some purchasing duties. In 2012, he was named a Young Retailer of the Year by NRHA. He is now responsible for purchasing most of the hardlines and flooring for all three stores and helps run the Pharr location.
Jeremy, the oldest of the brothers, was working for a logistics company in Houston when his father asked him to return to the family business to revitalize the San Benito store. He is heavily involved in commodities purchasing and has helped the San Benito store double in sales.
Danny rewarded two long-time employees for their dedication by inviting them to become co-owners in 2003. Luis Mancillas serves as the chief operating officer, while Oscar Sandoval is the chief financial officer.
The Pharr store is 74,000 square feet, which allows plenty of room to display dominant assortments of lumber, doors and windows. Matt’s dominates the local market for lumber, plywood, insulation, roofing, paint, water heaters, flooring, doors, windows and more.
In 2008, when the local housing market crashed and competitors saw sales decline 20 to 50 percent, Matt’s saw sales increase 3 percent.
Danny has always believed in giving back to their 180 employees. The generous incentive program even extends to cashiers and lumber loaders, and at Christmas each year 10 percent of the company profits are given out as bonuses to employees. As Isaac says, “We offer incentives to encourage our employees to take care of customers, and our customers understand that we value them.”
Matt’s does a huge business in flooring, a category that has been in demand after bad flooding in June affected 25 percent of the homes in their trade area. Matt’s decided to offer special pricing to those affected, in some cases selling sheetrock at a loss. Isaac explains, “We had people raving about us on Facebook for that and every day we’re having families tell us how grateful they are. Our customers know we genuinely care.”
Orgill has been a great partner on the hardware side, according to Isaac. He says, “The programs they offer are right for our customers. Their market research, layout, signage and fixtures for the new store really fit our customer needs.”
Danny’s three sons grew up watching him work 60 to 70 hours a week, doing all the jobs they now share. They started from the ground up and did everything from loading trucks to cashier. Their father would not give them raises until they completed college.
Looking back now, Isaac says they didn’t realize their father’s overall goal until much later on—teaching them the value of hard work and effort. Now the three brothers who represent the next generation of leadership are better able to appreciate the contributions of every employee.
Isaac says they are very grateful to be nominated for the Beacon Award and to win such a prestigious national award. He says, “It means so much to be recognized and we’re very appreciative of it. Our family has been very blessed by the business, and that’s why we want to keep giving back to the community in whatever way we can.”