Longtime lumber companies close doors

Longtime lumber companies close doors

Thurber Lumber Company is closing its doors for good this month. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After 57 years, the Thurber Lumber Company won’t be open for business after January.

The family-owned and -operated business is giving its inventory to Riverhead Building Supply, a lumber company that announced plans for expansion on Jan. 5. The latter company will also acquire several Nassau Suffolk Lumber locations including its lumberyards in Port Jefferson, Locust Valley and cabinet showroom in Bohemia. The company will still own its Huntington lumberyard, but Riverhead Building Supply will also operate out of that location.

Although Thurber Lumber is transferring its lumber and tools to Riverhead Building Supply, Thurber is keeping its property in Rocky Point. Kevin Keillor Jr., co-owner of Thurber Lumber, couldn’t disclose what he and his father Kevin Keillor Sr. will do with the property, or their asking price if they decide to sell the land, because the deal between the companies is ongoing.

John Callahan, president of Riverhead Building Supply, said his company expects to close the deal in early February. Callahan also wouldn’t disclose how much his company will spend on Thurber’s inventory and Nassau Suffolk Lumber’s three lumberyards. He said his business and the two lumber companies started discussing plans to transfer ownership last November.

“We have good relationships with all of our competitors in the area,” Callahan said. “Growth has always been a primary focus. It’s known among our competitors. If an opportunity arrives [the companies are] open to those discussions.”

Keillor Jr. and Nassau Suffolk Lumber owner Chris Van Tuyl approached Riverhead Building Supply. He didn’t specify why they decided to sell the company’s inventory but said the “business climate over the years has certainly changed.”

According to Chicago Mercantile Exchange, toward the end of September 2008 lumber prices dropped below $230/1,000 board feet. Since then, lumber prices increased to $256.70/1,000 board feet.

While the recession hit many businesses hard, Thurber Lumber, which was founded in 1931, and Nassau Suffolk Lumber, survived as they had for several decades. Twenty-eight years later, Myron Keillor purchased the property. For nearly six decades the family owned and operated the business that served a wide variety of communities in the area. While the reason behind its closing is unknown, Nassau Suffolk Lumber chose to sell because Chris Van Tuyl and his brother William don’t have another family member to take over the business.

“My brother and I don’t have any kids in the business and we started to get some offers for the property,” Chris Van Tuyl said.

Amid the property offers, the duo decided to contact Riverhead Building Supply last year. They hoped selling to a fellow lumber company would help their employees find jobs once the store closed. Riverhead Building Supply is accepting job applications from former Thurber and Nassau Suffolk Lumber employees.

Nassau Suffolk Lumber was incorporated in 1927. The Van Tuyl family was one of four families in the lumber business to come together to strengthen the company during tough economic times. The company’s Port Jefferson lumberyard was established several years later, in the late 1970s.

Although the transfer of ownership is a loss to the company, Chris Van Tuyl also said his customers and employees alike will be in good hands. Once the deal closes this coming February, Riverhead Building Supply’s new stores will be open to the public.

“There’s a lot to do in the next three weeks,” Callahan said. “We look forward to continuing the relationships that these companies have with their customers.”