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Ribadao Lumber and Flooring: Poised to impact U.S. market

Sept. 16/23 2013; Volume 27/number 11

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 2.23.11 PMAfter nearly four decades as one of Europe’s largest flooring mills, hardwood manufacturer Ribadao Lumber and Flooring decided the time was right to create its own brand identity in the U.S. Known for its exotic Brazilian and African species of hardwood flooring, Ribadao Lumber established a corporate presence in Miami in February; five months later, it opened warehouses in Linden, N.J., and Pomona, Calif., as additions to its Florida warehouse.

The company’s official U.S. coming-out party took place at the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) show in April, where it displayed a line of African solid hardwood products including African cedar, African teak, afzelia, sapelli and wenge (its top-selling product) to select retailers and distributors.

Ribadao sources its lumber from Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it has concessions to more than 800,000 acres of Congo forest. Company executives said Ribadao uses sustainable forestry practices to ensure that all forest exploration is managed with the highest environmental standards. By doing so, company president Pedro Tavares said Ribadao is able to obtain and produce some of the finest and most elegant floors in the industry.

Ribadao, which produces solid, engineered, prefinished and unfinished flooring and moldings, sends its lumber to Portugal for milling (it maintains a 500,000-square-foot mill in Portugal), and then ships the product to its warehouse facilities in the states.

Tavares said his company wanted to enter the U.S. market for some time as it is deemed a ripe market opportunity. “We felt there was a niche for a new type of flooring, for people looking for something varied and special.”

Lissette Lopez, chief sales officer, said Ribadao intends to offer a more exclusive line that it will sell directly to retailers, thereby keeping costs down.

Ribadao’s current business partners include A to Z Exotic Hardwoods, a Philadelphia-based importer and manufacturer of exotic hardwood flooring. “They are a great company to do businessScreen Shot 2013-09-25 at 2.23.22 PM with,” said Alex Benedik, president of A to Z. “They use Bona (Hardwood Floor Care System) for their pre-finish, which is the Mercedes of pre-finishes. Their milling is perfect…they’ve got good stuff, they are competitively priced—they are just really nice to deal with; very personable people, and I can’t always say that.”

Ray Lopez, president of Wood Floor Depot, a Miami-based retailer that began selling Ribadao Brazilian exotics earlier this year, echoed Benedik’s sentiments. “Their service is awesome, which is hard to find these days. They have great material, very high end. We have six of their palettes. Our customers are very pleased with the quality of their flooring.”

Benedik, who said his company “specializes in procuring the world’s most beautiful woods,” noted Ribadao’s finish sets it apart from many other hardwood floors. “If you go to a Lumber Liquidators and you hold the finish of their hardwood floors to the sunlight, you will see a thousand lines or dimpling marks,” he said. “With Ribadao, you could stick your nose right up to the finish, and you won’t see any of that.”

Ribadao plans to expand to Canada, Central America and South America in the next five years. Beyond that, additional flooring lines are expected within the next two years. “Our goal is to provide the most unique and elegant line of flooring to Amer-ica while promising affordability, service and professionalism,” Lopez said.

She also noted the company is working hard to fully stock its two warehouse locations, which, she said, would reduce shipping costs for buyers and cut shipping times as it serves both the North American and South American markets.