This year marks the 115th anniversary Williams Lumber Company, a Brookneal institution.
When a business has been around as long as Williams Lumber Company has, it’s bound to have experienced ups and downs. From the lows of a decade of the slow business during the Great Depression to the World War II era scarcity of supplies due to rationing, Brookneal’s lumber store has proven that it is a survivor. And through the boom years following the war in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the company showed that it could do more than just survive; it could thrive.
Fast-forward over 60 years, through many other ups and downs for the business (including the rise and fall of Brookneal’s fortunes as a tobacco and textile town), and we arrive in 2020. Three years of steady growth led to the nation’s strongest economy in an extremely long time, with record-low unemployment. Then the bottom fell out with the economic shutdown that came with the coronavirus.
Not only has Williams Lumber come through unscathed, but the business flourished during the three months of lockdown. Third-generation owner Joe Lunsford explained, “We’ve been extremely busy – the fact that so many people were off from work and at home has been an opportunity for us. So we’ve been extremely busy since March.”
His son-in-law, Matt Faulconer, echoed that report when interviewed: “We’ve picked up business as a result of homeowners being out of work and working on home projects.”
It hasn’t been all easy for the business just north of town on Lynchburg Hwy. “We are experiencing selected shortages as a result of some of the factories being closed,” Lunsford pointed out. By way of example, he mentioned that the vendor who supplies the store has 25 different wheelbarrows in its catalogue; “but the ones we want are not available.”
He also observed that “select lumber items – especially treated lumber – prices have gone up because there’s been so much demand.”
Thankfully the community has come through the coronavirus with relatively little trouble in terms of health. “I don’t think the pandemic has created specific barriers in the Brookneal area. Last week we just had our first confirmed case of COVID in the area,” Lunsford pointed out.
Some customers have exercised considerable caution. One customer from Charlotte County wanted to pay over the telephone with a credit cared and “wanted us to bring the material out to him” and load his vehicle. That’s the kind of polite, friendly customer service that William’s Lumber offers.
The business has even taken on a new employee. Lunsford’s wife, Cindy, joined the team on May 1 and provides office support and customer service.
Another remarkable aspect of Williams Lumber is that the business in 115 years has only had three owners. Lunsford’s grandfather, Douglass Williams, Sr. founded the company in 1905 and ran it until his death in 1948. His daughter – Lunsford’s mother – Elizabeth Williams Lunsford – had come on board in the early 1930s, and she became the next owner-operator after her father’s passing.
Joe Lunsford, in his turn, entered the family business in 1973 and took up the mantle of leadership following his mother’s passing in 1988.
Not only have the owners taken long shifts in running the company, but the employees have served long-term, as well. The late employees Estelle Sowell (54 years), Otis Marshall (over 40 years), James Stevens (32 years), and Everette “Buck” Harris (30 years) each put in a lifetime of service. Current employees Joe Yoder (33 years) and David Scott (27 year) likewise have proven their longevity.
Congratulations to Williams Lumber Supply on 115 years in business!
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