Boyle Lumber closing its doors

December 12, 2003|HERB BROCK

Local builder Tom Walker says he's probably spent as much time at Boyle Lumber Co. as he has at his own home over the last six decades.

"My father (Henry) used to bring me in here when I was a kid when he came by to buy materials for the projects he was building, and also to hang out and have a cup of coffee with friends and employees," the 71-year-old Boyle County man said Thursday morning, sipping coffee with store employees and other builders. "When I followed in his footsteps as a builder, those steps kept on leading right here."

In a few weeks, Walker's feet will have to take him somewhere else to buy building supplies and enjoy chats with builder buddies. Boyle Lumber, a downtown Danville commercial fixture for decades, soon will be closing its doors.

Bill Kemper confirmed Thursday that he and his three partners - his wife, Pat Kemper, Rose Edmiston and Ray Walker - have decided to close the business. The corporation, however, will remain intact, he said.


"We will be closing the store when we've completed our liquidation sale," said Kemper, referring to a current sale in which merchandise has been discounted 15 percent. "I imagine that will take a few weeks."

He said he and his partners will be selling or leasing the facility, which includes 15,000 square feet of enclosed space and another 10,000 square feet of partially enclosed, unheated space.

Meanwhile, the store's eight full-time employees will be looking for other jobs.

Julie Wagner, executive director of the Heart of Danville, said she was saddened by the news of Boyle Lumber's closing.

"It's always sad when a downtown business closes, particularly one with such a long and proud history as Boyle Lumber," said Wagner. "We recently lost our last downtown grocery store (Save-A-Lot is moving from its Main Street location two miles out Lexington Road to the former site of Piggly Wiggly), and now we're losing our last downtown hardware store."

Kemper said Boyle Lumber was holding its own in the area of profit margins until the Danville Post Office next door moved and took its large and steady customer traffic with it.

"We had been doing fairly well, but when the post office was moved from its longtime place right next to us to Main Street a couple of years ago, that made things pretty rough for us," he said.

In addition, the continued development of commercial enterprises along the bypass, including Lowe's home improvement center and discount stores which have large hardware and building supplies departments, also have hurt Boyle Lumber's business and that of other downtown enterprises, said Kemper.

The bottom line, Kemper said, is that Boyle Lumber is "going the way of so many downtown businesses in so many communities around the country."

"It's just very hard to keep a downtown, at least its commercial enterprises, alive when almost every community has a bypass with a lot of ring merchandisers, or a mall, or both, and large parking lots," he said. "This change is occurring everywhere, not just Danville.

"It's kind of sad but we have enjoyed owning the store and being of service to so many builders and many other customers over the years. This place is a real piece of history."

Store's history stretches back to around World War I

That history stretches back about eight decades to around the period of World War I, said Kemper, and involves three next-door businesses that eventually were combined into one Boyle Lumber, Edmiston Brothers and Farmers Supply.

Boyle Lumber bought Edmiston Brothers in 1976 and Farmers Supply in 1986, he said. Soon thereafter, the building that had been the space occupied by Boyle Lumber was torn down and became the site of the Charleston Greene residential community, he said.

Another person who has played a key role in that long history is Carl Montgomery, an employee of Boyle Lumber since 1986 and manager since 1998. Prior to his employment at Boyle Lumber, he had worked at Lincoln Lumber Co. for 20 years.

"One of the things we've prided ourselves in is providing not just a big supply of different building materials and hardware merchandise for builders and carpenters and electricians and other tradesmen, but also a personal touch for homeowners," Montgomery said. "A lot of people have depended on us for doing little repair jobs, helping them find the right nail or screw, or just shaping a single piece of wood to fit something.

"Yes, a lot of history is about to go by the wayside."

A person who helped to create a lot of the store's history was visiting with Montgomery and Tom Walker Thursday morning, all three sharing moments of the store's past over cups of coffee.

"We were just going over a lot of memories," said Jeptha R. Jett. "You can't help but to have sentimental thoughts about a place that has meant so much to so many people through the years, including my family."

Jett sold Farmers Supply to Boyle Lumber 17 years ago. He had inherited Farmers Supply from his father, Jeptha C. Jett, who began the business in 1929.

Central Kentucky News Articles