Profile 2019: David Smith Construction thriving as family businessBy MARK H. STOWERS,
The Delta construction scene was changed in 1976 for the better when David Smith found his way to Inverness. Following his wife, Donna, who had taken a job with V&M Cotton Company setting up their first computer system, Smith started in the residential construction business with his David Smith Construction and later moved into commercial and business construction with his sons Brady and Martin.
Smith got his first taste of construction due to his dad being a painter and he later attended Holmes Junior College to play football in 1974 and 1975. While there he got an associate’s degree in Building Construction Technology.
“He had been in construction all of his life,” eldest son Brady explained. “When he first came to Inverness he worked with Opie Little and then went into business with Elton Lloyd.”
In 1983, Smith opened David Smith Construction in Inverness. Twenty years later, he would become owner of the multi-generational and Sunflower County mainstay – Sunflower Lumber. Later he added the old Bill Tinnin gas station and automotive repair as Inverness Service and Hardware (which later closed).
Over the years, the Smith family has worked hard to provide excellence in construction and customer service. By 2003, Smith had moved into commercial construction only with projects all across the Delta and beyond. Brady Smith, who oversees Sunflower Lumber, included details of the family’s construction history.
“My grandfather was a painter and my dad was always on construction sites,” Brady said. “After Holmes Junior College, my mother was in computer programming and they guaranteed her a job. She was from Grenada and he was from Weir so they placed her in the Mississippi Delta.”
Smith and Elton Lloyd worked together framing houses before Smith went out on his own into residential construction. When the two sons got through college, they each joined the family construction business full time. Brady first joined in 2000 followed by Martin. With his sons on board, Smith was looking towards adding Sunflower Lumber to his business structure but the timing wasn’t right just yet.
“Robert Bennett sold it to Fletcher Duke and he upgraded and updated and brought in computers and made it a home center market and spruced things up,” Brady said.
The Smiths purchased the store from Duke and kept things the same. To defray any fears from local contractors, David Smith went around to everyone he could find letting them know he wasn’t out to steal construction leads by buying Sunflower Lumber. He kept his business interests separated and Sunflower Lumber kept running like it did before with very few changes.
“I saw a picture the other day of when we bought the store from Fletcher and the safety glasses rack was in the picture. That rack is still in the same spot today,” he said.
The first version of the Smith Sunflower Lumber Store had Martin working there along with manager Doak Fulgham, Steven Johnson, Leo Tarpley and “all the guys in the back we retained.”
The family set up a satellite office on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after customer demand from Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.
“We had customers who wanted us to come take care of property but it got to be too much for me and Lee Evans to run from the office. My dad was trying to work out in the field so we brought my brother Martin on hand to work with estimating. We knew Sunflower Lumber was in good hands and didn’t need a family member there. They ran it like we would want them to run it and didn’t have any big issues,” Brady said.
In 2011, the construction industry was declining and coastal work was drying up with overextended competition now there.
“I remember bidding on a $250,000 job and there were 28 bidders for the job. I cut it to the bone but we still came in around 10th,” he said. “It was time to come home and focus on the Delta.”
With all of the bidding, Brady admitted he was getting “burned out” and had been coming in second on just about every bid he submitted.
“They called me the second-place kid after a while,” he said.
After talking it over with his dad, they decided to move Brady to Sunflower Lumber and have Martin take over bidding.
“He knew I was very people-oriented and liked to talk,” he said. “I went up there and immediately fell in love with the business. Steven did a great job training me on how to deal with the public, how to think things through and understand the particulars of people’s problems and how to help them. The main thing I was getting was instant gratification that I wasn’t getting in construction. He taught me how to digest and dissect a problem and then put it back together. We’re plumbing somebody’s house on aisle three and that’s fun. ”The Smiths all enjoy the family aspect of the business.
“I love what I do and it’s great to be able to work with my dad and my brother. The cool thing is I’m working with them every day even though I may not see them every day,” he said. “They pump a lot of business through the store and they stay busy. They try to stay within an hour of Inverness but they are also licensed to work in Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama.”
There are future plans to expand Sunflower Lumber Company but those are on the back burner for now. There are talks to rent out the building next door in the meantime. And even though his mom isn’t in the store, Brady has plans to hopefully make that happen one day.
“My mother is retiring in a couple of years from her job in Greenwood and I’m not looking to work her to death but I’d love to work with her side by side. She is a very big ‘green thumb’ and I’d like to add more lawn and gardening,” Brady said. “People know her work from her yard.”
As hard as the Smiths work to provide excellent products and customer service, they know and understand they wouldn’t be successful without the support from the surrounding area.
“I can’t say it enough. Indianola has really, really supported Sunflower Lumber. It’s been a great blessing for us. And the surrounding communities – Belzoni, Isola, Leland and Greenville – a lot of those people have chosen to come here. It’s wonderful, and it’s been great.”
A construction family legacy, David Smith with sons Brady and Martin – all in Sunflower County.