Businessmen tell Rotarians about new ownership of Judd Lumber

Published 10:45 am Friday, April 5, 2019

DOWAGIAC — In mid-March, Judd Lumber announced the sale of the company from longtime owners, Dick and Sandie Judd, to Bryan and Jolynn Smith, the owners of United States Lumber in Battle Creek. Although Dowagiac has been abuzz about the sale of the local company, at the regular Thursday afternoon Rotary lunch, members of the Dowagiac Rotary Club listened to Dick Judd and Bryan Smith give their perspectives on the passing of ownership.

Judd spent a significant portion of his presentation describing the history of Judd Lumber in Dowagiac and explaining how and why his family’s business has survived for so long.

He spoke about the exchanges of ownership throughout the existence of Judd Lumber, the various name and location changes and the greater community of lumber companies in southwest Michigan.

During his presentation, Judd passed around historic photos and documents of Judd Lumber that were visual representations of what he talked about. He also spoke to the technological and economic changes that created challenges for Judd Lumber.

The gist of Judd’s presentation came down to a simple mantra: “adapt and change.”

“It’s just adapt and change, adapt and change, adapt and change,” Judd said.

Although retirement was a significant factor in the selling of Judd Lumber, Judd sees Smith as another crucial phase of adaption and change for the company.

“It’s not all about the past. It’s about the future,” Judd said. “[Smith] has the enthusiasm, the knowledge, the experience and will to take us to the next step. I see that as a tremendous plus that we need.”

Judd talked about the preparedness Smith has for managing another lumber company. Smith developed a business culture that has “integrity, quality products, service to the customers at a competitive price,” Judd said.

Smith shared Judd’s sentiment, both professionally and personally. He believes his experience has conditioned him to take on Judd Lumber, but his family also finds comfort in the small-town environment of Dowagiac.

“We’re not big city people,” Smith said. “Dowagiac feels good to both of us, and that’s part of this frankly.”

Rotary itself was also a comfortable space for Smith.

“Interestingly though, when I walked in here today I went, ‘Man, this actually feels good,’” Smith said. “In other words, Rotary has such a standardized presence that you can walk into a Rotary meeting and feel like this is cool and good.”

Aside from his professionalism and comfort in rural America and Rotary, Smith also reflects many of Judd’s core values as a business owner, according to Judd.

Judd attributes the survival and success of Judd Lumber largely to how he approached his work as a business owner with a three-legged philosophy of 1) “doing the best you can with what you have,” 2) “having a good attitude,” and 3) “belief in a higher power.”

Judd said he sees those values emphasized by Smith and how he operates as a business owner and believes those values will carry Judd into the future.

“He is going to survive and grow and do a good job, and I’m really excited,” Judd said.