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Itâs unusual for a business to celebrate its 100th birthday while simultaneously planning a retirement party, but manager Mike Schwehr and his crew at C.H. Carpenter Lumber company are doing just that.
âItâs a little hard because youâve put so much into it,â Schwehr said of the closing. âItâs tough. Theyâve been good to us around here, the communityâs supported us well. Weâve been thanking everybody for everything theyâve done over the years.â
The last in-law to the Carpenter family and owner of the company is a woman named Lee Andran, and Schwehr said she is getting ready to retire and decided to sell off the companyâs assets and close its remaining stores.
âThey decided to close all the companyâs stores, in the Twin Cities and all over. Thereâs no family left that wanted to keep it going,â he said. âIt isnât anything that the local economy did to us, itâs just theyâd been in it for years and wanted to be done.â
Schwehr said the decision was made between Thanksgiving and Christmas of last year, and that the number of employees has steadily been trickling down since the closure was announced.
âStarting (today) it will be just me,â he said. âBasically what weâre doing now is just selling assets. Iâm working here and in Jamestown selling the properties, trucks and whateverâs left of the inventory.â
The C.H. Carpenter Lumber Company began in Minneapolis in 1896, and the business soon expanded into North Dakota with the purchase of retail lumberyards in Jamestown, Hastings, Litchville, Luverne, Oriska, Pillsbury, Rogers and Valley City. Carpenter has served Valley City continuously since 1912, when the lumberyard next to the Northern Pacific railroad tracks was purchased from the McCulloch-Mudgett Company.
While many of the smaller yards closed during the Depression, The Litchville store held on until 1984, and Valley City and Jamestown remained in business until the closing announcement last fall.
While there isnât a set closure date for the store, Schwehr said the are getting close, as he is currently liquidating merchandise for the former Jamestown and Twin Cities locations.
âWeâre the only Carpenter Lumber store open right now,â he said. âThe basic stuff is really getting down. Weâre not ordering anything, so weâre not technically open for business, just getting rid of what we currently have.â
Lumber and assorted tools and fixtures are still available in the store, and each day a steady stream of customers wanders the aisles for possibly the last time, saying their goodbyes. âYou get your guys that are loyal to us and hate to see us go,â said Schwehr, who âstarted outside and worked his way inâ at Carpenter straight out of college in 1979. He has been with the company ever since, so the end is especially bittersweet for him. While heâs not sure where he will head next, Schwehr made sure to thank those who helped him build a career and a living for over 30 years.
âItâs been a good relationship with us and the community,â he said.