The women at Browne’s Home Center have turned gender norms on their head.
Working at a store dedicated to home improvements and repairs might not seem like a typical job for women, but, at the San Juan Island retailer, half of the employees are female.
“The women of Browne’s Home Center occupy positions that require detail, vision and follow-through,” said Natalia Dittmer, a company spokesperson.
Browne’s Home Center staff offer products such as lumber, paint and materials for roofs, decks and gardens. They also provide contract services to bring home design ideas to life.
Eight ladies work in the garden center, four in building materials, two in the construction department, three in the paint department, three on the retail floor, four in retail sales and three in the office.
Many of the women have built careers at the Mullis Street business. There’s Sharon Spangler, a cabinet specialist with an eye for detailed design, who has worked for the company for 12 years. Then there’s Julie Danrich, the garden center manager and 15-year-long employee who plans ahead for each holiday’s and season’s decorations and landscaping. Plus, there’s Dani Hoyer, the nine-year Browne’s veteran and a door and window specialist, who, as Dittmer noted, is an expert at matching a “look” with a “style.”
For Hoyer, working with tools has always come second nature. She is the daughter of a carpenter, and enjoys wood carving in her spare time. She first learned of Browne’s when she and her husband moved to the island and started building their home.
“When the house was finished, I came searching for a job opportunity that supports my love of construction, creativity and, of course, wood,” she said.
The company first launched in 1947, when Inez and Jim Browne opened their lumberyard on San Juan. Jim manned the yard, while his wife handled the retail and accounting.
Last year, the company was sold to a division of TAL Holdings LLC, which is also a family-run business but based out of Oregon. Despite the different owners, the mission, said Dittmer, remains the same.
“Browne’s Home Center has been dedicated to promoting and empowering women since its purchase in 1947,” she said. “They want to be the best at serving our local community of contractors, homeowners and DIYers, while supporting their local community.”
That, she added, includes implementing upcoming store improvements like importing products to the island more seamlessly, quickening delivery with new trucks and forklifts and ensuring more in-stock products.
Whether they are enjoying sweets during an employee birthday party or sharing knowledge of products, the women at Browne’s have a connection as strong as the lumber they sell.
“All the workers at Browne’s are like family,” said Dittmer.
Browne’s Home Center is located at 860 Mullis St., in Friday Harbor. The hours are 7 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends. For more info, call 360-378-2168 or 360-378-1041 for the garden center, or visit www.browneshomecenter.com