The Rise Of Forest City Trading Group: Our History

The story of Forest City Trading Group is one that might sound familiar to you. Our humble founders chased after the old-fashioned “American Dream,” building their empire from the ground up, one customer at a time.

We may have started as a small lumber yard run by two immigrant brothers, but we’ve since grown into North America's largest wholesale lumber products distributor. So how have we remained at the forefront of the elite players in the forest products industry for over a century?

Take a look at our origin story and evolution, and you’ll see two common threads through the years: an unwavering focus on continuous adaptation in the face of a changing market and a laser focus on setting industry standards that help us stay ahead of the curve.

A Timeline Of Pioneering Wholesale Lumber Distributors

1921 - The Journey Begins

Our journey begins with four Polish siblings: Fannye, Charles, Leonard, and Max Ratner. The siblings embarked on their entrepreneurial journey in 1921 when they immigrated to Cleveland, OH. They soon established a small lumber yard known as Forest City Material Company.

Timing wasn’t exactly on their side. The Great Depression loomed on the horizon, sweeping the nation at the tail-end of the Roaring Twenties. But despite these economic challenges, the Ratners quickly earned a stellar reputation for their commitment to service and honesty, setting the stage for their rise in the building materials industry.

The Ratners introduced innovative new ways to market their products. For instance, they were among the first in the world to sell prepackaged, built-on-location garage units to meet Cleveland's surging demand for enclosed garages.

The Ratners eventually ventured into acquiring building lots for residential home construction.They even purchased a savings and loan bank, providing financing options for both builders and purchasers. Through this visionary leadership and determination, the Ratners laid the foundation for the remarkable growth and success of Forest City Material Company.

1930s - Operations Diversify

Forest City Material Company continued to expand its operations and diversify its portfolio over the next decade. The Ratners undertook the development of small shopping strips in East Cleveland, showcasing their ability to adapt and meet the community's evolving needs. This expansion propelled them to become the region's most prominent building materials operation.

1940s & 1950s - Forest City Grows & Innovates

By the late 1940s, Forest City Material Co. boasted three lumberyards, a millwork plant, and several other builder-related companies, establishing themselves as the largest landholder in the Cleveland area. The company established Buckeye Wholesale Lumber, Inc. in 1950 to secure a West Coast connection and facilitate the procurement of orders from suppliers.

Innovation remained a driving force for Forest City Material Company as they introduced a revolutionary concept in 1957: a complete building supply store under one roof. This pioneering idea served as a prototype for the do-it-yourself home improvement stores we see today.

The company experienced remarkable growth, expanding to 20 retail stores across multiple cities. Forest City Material Company ultimately decided to sell this division to the Handy Andy Group, allowing them to refocus their efforts and pursue new avenues of growth.

1960s & 1970s - Leadership Drives Forest City Forward

Forest City Office in the 1960s

In 1960, Forest City Material Co. underwent a significant transformation — it became a public stock company and rebranded itself as Forest City Enterprises.

The company entered the national wholesale market in 1969 by acquiring American International Forest Products. This strategic move saw Jack McKinnon, president of AIFP, assume the role of Executive Vice President.

Under McKinnon's leadership, the newly formed Forest City Enterprises embarked on a path of expansion. They established multiple companies in different markets across the country — a growth strategy aimed at increasing market share and leadership in the wholesale market.

1980s - Forest City Trading Group Is Born

Forest City Trading Group continued its upward trajectory, establishing several more trading companies and subsidiaries, including Cascade Empire Corporation, Western International Forest Products, and Newport International Forest Products, among others.

As a testament to its evolution, the corporate name was officially changed to Forest City Trading Group, Inc. in 1983, signifying the company's identity as a leading player in the industry. Milan Stoyanov assumed the position of Forest City Trading Group’s second company President, further advancing the company’s dominant trajectory in the forest products industry.

FCTG Today: North America's Largest Wholesale Lumber Products Distributor

Forest City Trading Group has undergone a dynamic evolution in recent years. Today, our employees are the backbone of our 12 forest products trading and services companies. Our company's impact is far-reaching, especially when you consider that one in every ten houses today is built using FCTG's products!

Within FCTG, the forest products trading companies operate in a competitive landscape, vying for customers and suppliers. Boundaries are not limited by territory or geography, allowing for healthy autonomy and market exploration.

Our corporate offices provide a range of essential services to our trading companies, including:

  • Accounting
  • Information services
  • Rail transportation
  • Human resources
  • Marketing
  • Credit oversight
  • Risk management
  • Inventory control

This comprehensive support system ensures efficient operations and enables us to maintain our position as a leader in the industry.

One thing that sets our company apart from other wholesale lumber distributors in the industry is that we aren’t speculative or opportunistic traders. Although our companies seize value-driven opportunities when they arise, we aren’t gamblers — we’re incredibly strategic, and we refrain from making wild guesses in the market.

Our business model allows us to withstand significant economic adversities. We managed to pull through the Great Depression and navigate the housing crash of 2008, to name a few.

But we didn’t just survive these challenging periods — we also increased sales and profitability each time. This track record is a testament to our resilience and adaptability. Our ability to weather storms and navigate economic downturns underscores the strength, strategic vision, and agility with which we operate.

Beyond Wholesale Forest Products: Making A World Of Difference

One thing we’re proud of here at Forest City Trading Group is our deep commitment to making a positive impact beyond the boardroom. We’re passionate about supporting charitable endeavors that uplift communities and create tangible change in the lives of folks who need it.

A shining example of our dedication to community engagement is our company-wide Habitat for Humanity campaign. The whole Forest City Trading Group family actively contributes to creating sustainable and thriving communities through volunteer work, fundraising initiatives, and support for disaster relief efforts.

It’s also our belief that our employees are the backbone of our operation. We’re employee owned and centered — and that means making sure our people have access to the continuous learning they need to excel at their role.

To this end, we offer industry-leading initiatives to keep skills sharp, like our popular Rookie School retreat for new traders. Our support programs nurture talent and cultivate the business acumen of the folks that keep our organization thriving.

Changing The Wholesale Forest Products Industry One Customer At A Time

It’s no coincidence that Forest City Trading Group has become a force to be reckoned with. Just like our early founders, we operate with a strong sense of purpose and an unwavering commitment to our customers.

We’ll continue to thrive and shape the industry's future through continuous innovation and a keen focus on people development. As we move onward and upward, our company remains poised to set new standards of excellence and achieve even greater heights in the years to come.

How can our legacy help move your business forward?

Get in touch with us today and learn more about what we can do for your business.

Published by FCTG

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