This story begins on April 1, 1960.
That is the day Clifford Gronlund purchased the Sebeka Lumber Company from Albert Anttila.
The land where present day Sebeka Lumber Sales Inc., is located has changed hands many times throughout the years. The U.S. government first sold it to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company in 1873.
In 1880 the railroad sold the land to James Daly, but reserved a 400 foot right-of-way for railroad purposes. It was surveyed and platted as Whitney and Murray’s Addition to Sebeka in 1902. The property has been the site of a lumber yard since 1921.
With a two week lumbermen’s class under his belt, Clifford Gronlund took ownership of the business. He has witnessed many changes since that day in 1960, both in the town and within the lumber industry.
“In 1960 we didn’t even have a calculator, let alone a computer,” said Cliff. “A fax machine was unknown.”
In the early 1960’s, rough lumber and coal were brought in by rail car. Everything was unloaded by hand. Cement was hand mixed. Carpenters built rafters, windows, doors and kitchen cabinets by hand, as these items did not arrive pre-assembled like they do today.
As the community grew, Sebeka Lumber Sales Inc. assisted by providing materials and labor for many projects.
Since 1977, three new churches where built with materials supplied by Sebeka Lumber Sales Inc. Cliff’s biggest commercial project was the construction of Sebeka Security State Bank in 1975, followed by the Hill Top Villa Apartments.
Since 1960, Cliff estimates that between 400 and 500 homes have been built with materials from Sebeka Lumber Sales Inc.
“I started working in 1978 at the age of 14, so I have many years in the business already,” said Richard.
Ironically, the consumer’s desire for low or no maintenance home exteriors means that very little rough lumber is sold today. Vinyl siding and other construction materials have replaced wood. Studs, joists and rafters are the only parts of a modern house that use lumber.
Most homes are also sold as a complete package, with various local contractors providing the labor. “We have sub-contractors, so we can do the whole kit and kaboodle from the ground up,” said Richard. “It makes for a smooth transition.”
“The consumer is different minded today,” said Cliff. “When building a home, they want to leave the headaches to someone else. Both ma and pa work, that’s a factor.”
Richard said the trend is toward larger homes with more bathrooms. The average home is now 1,300 to 1,400 square feet.
Technology has changed the nature of the lumber business.
The office currently has two phones, a fax line, a computer and an e-mail address.
“We do virtually all of our estimates using the computer instead of by hand,” said Richard. “Customers say they like it better on a computer because they can read it.”
Advances in tools have marked changes in consumer buying habits. For example, the introduction of the cordless drill has made screws, rather than nails, a popular item.
Richard has built a 42′ by 104′ non-insulated building for storing equipment and products. More additions are planned in the future.