Al Gemmen might be a little surprised—and maybe more than a little startled—had he lived to learn that the store he founded in Hudsonville, Mi., in 1955 would, 65 year later, be named one of the “coolest” in Ace Hardware Corp.’s vast family.
Nobody thought about lumber in the beginning. Back in 1940, Herman Albrecht Jr., a vocational school shop instructor, used his backyard garage as a workshop for woodworking commissions from friends and neighbors.
It's perhaps an unlikely place for $4-billion-a-year co-op Do it Best Corp. to unveil the prototype for its compelling new store design program: small-town Vassar, a dot on the mitten-shaped map of Michigan, nestled in the fold where the thumb meets the hand.
As a little kid, Richard Hobbs had big plans. “When I grow up, I want to be a Senator,” he told his mother. As second-generation co-owner with her husband of Simonson Lumber, today headquartered in St. Cloud, Mn., she delivered the verbal equivalent of a slap up the head: “So everything Grandpa Nels worked for would be wasted?”
The light bulb moment occurred when Mike Friedman ran out of space. Mike had launched a home-repair business in Portland, Me., in 2005, which, as he reports, “grew-grew-grew.
All of those self-help gurus advise us strivers to learn a new word a day. Well, today is Monday, and my new word is Kentuckiana. It’s the location of PC Home Center, based in New Albany, In.—right across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky. (Get it?) “I can look out my window and see the city skyline right now,” declares owner David Stemler.
Boone Kenton Lumber & Building Supply Co., of Erlander—in business for 101 years—is the oldest enterprise in the Kentucky town and the third-oldest lumberyard in the entire state.
Back in 1904, North Side Lumber & Fuel Co. was launched to serve the building and heating needs of its Milwaukee neighbors. A young employee named J.P. Bliffert married the boss’ daughter, and, as they say, the rest is history.
This is A bro-mance now playing at a lumberyard near you—well, if you’re within viewing distance of Fargo, anyway: the same North Dakota town that lent its name to the iconic 1996 movie. LumBros Solutions is actually located in Detroit Lakes, Mn., a bedroom community, pop. 8,500, about 50 minutes east. But their reach extends with profitable daily runs to Fargo.
PMC Building Materials opened in Marietta, Ga., in 2008, just in time for the arrival of the biggest recession the country had seen in generations. To thrive, it would need a niche beyond that of a traditional full-line lumberyard. It opted to make decking its specialty, and added its first major display in early 2010.