Judd Lumber finds new ownership

Published 10:18 am Monday, March 11, 2019

DOWAGIAC — Dowagiac native Dick Judd joined the workforce at his family’s business, Judd Lumber Company, when he was just a teenager. He started by unloading box cars and putting away lumber back in the days when that sort of work was done almost entirely by hand.

“Today, we use these Moffett trucks that pick up the lumber and makes delivery a lot easier than it used to be,” the 81-year-old said, a smile forming at the memory of his younger years. “Things have changed a lot since then.”

Now, things are changing once again — in a big way.

Judd Lumber Company, the oldest lumber yard in the state of Michigan, currently owned by Dick and Sandie Judd, is being sold to Bryan and Jolynn Smith, owners of United States Lumber Company in Battle Creek, Michigan. Up until this point, the independent lumber and building supply center, located at 101 Robinson St., Dowagiac, had been family-owned for 160 years. The sale of the company is expected to close in early April.

“What prompted the sale is that I was looking for a successor,” Judd said. “I am excited that the Smiths will bring new energy and enthusiasm to our business with expanded inventory and product displays. Most importantly, the core values of outstanding service and quality building materials at competitive prices will remain.”

Despite being under new ownership, Judd Lumber will retain its name and many of its current employees, according to both Judd and new owner Bryan Smith. However, the rental side of the business will be closing, a decision that was made before the sale, Judd said.

Judd Lumber Company was founded by Mark Judd on April 18, 1859, as a water-powered planing mill. It produced lumber, sash and doors for many of the early homes and public buildings in Dowagiac. Since then, the company has seen several Judds work at the business and gone through many changes, which Dick Judd said has given the lumber yard its longevity.

The current sale of the business is just one more change, he said.

Though he said it was somewhat of a difficult decision to sell his family business and that he will miss his customers, Judd said he knows he is leaving Judd Lumber in good hands.

“We knew [the Smiths] to be good business people who were honest and fair in their deals and the kind of people we would want to associate with,” Judd said. “The part I’m excited about is that they will be serving customers locally and in southwest Michigan. … I think something that has given longevity is our core value of integrity, and I believe that Bryan will carry that on.”

Smith said he and his wife decided to purchase Judd Lumber for the opportunity to expand into southwest Michigan. Like Judd, Smith, 48, has been involved in the lumber trade since his formative years. Because of his history with the business, Smith said he is excited to have a hand in keeping the oldest lumber yard in the state operational.

“I think the best thing [about the sale] is that the business will remain continuously operating,” he said. “It’s remarkable for any business of any kind to stay in business as long as this has.”

Both Smith and Judd said they are hopeful about the future of Judd Lumber and excited to see how things will change and grow under new ownership.

“I think you will see a lot of growth and a wide selection of products, with an emphasis on serving the specific needs of this community,” Smith said. “That is important to us. Judd Lumber will remain a forward-looking institution. We will embrace innovation, and we want to be here for the next generation of builders.”