Past the walls covered with handwritten notes and supplier phone numbers, a table with an always piping hot pot of coffee and the notebooks on the counter full of handwritten notes and calculations, you will find the heart and creator of the business usually smoking a cigarette — Rome transplant Gale Drought.
When Gale Drought decided to relocate to Rome in 1984, he never imagined his life would become about helping other people build a good life. Drought is originally from Rockford, Illinois — a city known for its hard, cold winters and prime location within the state for industrial development.
“I used to own the A&W’s in Rockford and it was alright,” Drought explained. “I eventually decided to try retirement in the Florida Keys where I could fish and enjoy warmer weather.”
It was while living in Rockford that he met his wife of nearly 50 years, Patricia.
“I used to run a tavern in Rockford called Idle in — I used to joke it was ‘Idle in, waddle out,’” Drought laughed. “Patricia came in with some of her girlfriends and her voice immediately drew me in. Patricia was from England originally, so her accent was really something.”
Drought said he got to talking with her and they never quit talking. Six children and 49 years later, it seems Patricia and Gale were meant to be.
Prior to moving to the Keys, Gale said he had already had three children. After moving to the Florida Keys, he and his wife added another three children to their growing family.
“It got to where there weren’t many opportunities financially for my family in the Keys, and we needed to make more money,” Drought said. “I called up to the Rome visitors bureau and the first thing I asked was ‘How is the weather up there?’ I thought if I never saw any of that terrible white stuff like we had in Rockford again I would be completely happy. They said Rome was nice so we moved in search of new opportunity.”
Drought started out owning several mobile home parks when his family first moved from Florida, and it was while he was looking to repair a damaged trailer that he found his true vocation.
“I had gone down to Marietta to get some parts for a mobile home when I walked by this bathtub full of faucets,” Drought explained. “I asked the guy, ‘How much do you want?’ He looked at me and said ‘Count them — how many are there?’ I did and there were 72 to be exact. He gave them to me for $1 apiece.”
Drought said that that first purchase started what would grow into his first location for Builders Salvage in 1985. The original location was mostly salvaged materials and was located on Shorter Avenue.
“My first building was much smaller, and as the business grew I would find another location. After Shorter Avenue, I moved to Fairbanks where I had two big buildings,” Drought explained. “We finally grew so large we built our current location which sits on 4 acres here in West Rome.”
The current location on Addington Drive off of the bypass was built in 1988, making it their home for the last 30 years. Over the years, Drought sold the mobile home parks to focus on what he likes to do and what has truly supported his family — the building materials business. The large building is packed from front to back with tons of building materials, custom-made cabinets, counter tops, windows and specialty items collected with care by the owner.
“I started out buying damaged and discontinued items. Now 98 percent of what we sell is brand new. We just kept the name because that is who we have always been,” Drought explained.
Now 83 years old, Gale Drought enjoys working what he considers part-time and semi-retired with his son, grandson, son-in-law and daughter.
“We are very much a family business,” Drought smiled. “I work afternoons during the week and all day on Saturday.”
Drought said that he still believes the same as when he started the business, his place is to help people build a life and save money doing it.
“We built our life here. I do this to help others do the same for as affordable as possible,” Drought said. “I love this business because of the people you meet.”
Drought said that despite being well past the age of retirement, he has no plans of travel or doing anything other than spending time with his family.
“We have traveled extensively in our lifetime — visiting Europe and China,” Drought said. “Beijing was one of the most impressive places we stayed. Because of the strict laws there it was very safe to walk around and there was so much to see.”
“I remember asking the valet at the hotel if it was safe for us to be out at night,” Drought said. “He said that my wife could walk up and down the street at 2 a.m. in the morning and no one would bother her because of the laws and respect they are taught to have for visitors. The people were very friendly.”
Drought said that he was particularly impressed by the Great Wall of China.
“Pictures of the Wall aren’t that telling,” Drought laughed. “In real life, you can see how incredibly tall and steep it really is and the care that must have been taken in building it. It is really beautiful to see in person.”
Drought said that his free time in the mornings is mostly spent watching his television shows and sports.
“I do enjoy bowling and deep sea fishing, though I haven’t done much of either lately,” Drought laughed. “Most of my retirement will be me at home relaxing.”
Most of all Drought said he plans to continue working closely with his family and making sure his business is really servicing and helping the citizens of Rome.
“I just like being able to help people find what they need and maybe save them a buck or two,” Drought said. “I like to be of service.”