Over 100 Years of Service and Selection
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July 2nd, 1904 marked the end of the McAbee Brother Timber Company and
the beginning of the Southern Lumber Company. Southern Lumber began as
a logging operation in, what is today, Big Basin State Park in Boulder
Creek. In it's early days, Southern Lumber made most of its business
selling large timbers to the quicksilver mines in the Almaden Valley,
and lumber to the orchards and farmlands of the Santa Clara Valley.
To better serve its customers, in 1910, Southern Lumber opened a distribution
yard down in the valley, just south of San Jose. Over time, San Jose's
boundaries would expand, placing the yard in the center of modern-day San Jose.
In April of 1936, Ed Pohle, a former logger and Forestry Major, purchased
controlling interest in Southern Lumber Company and transformed it into
a family owned business focused on providing customers with high quality
woods. Ed Pohle effectively saved Southern Lumber from the grip of the
Great Depression by transforming the business into a woodworker's paradise.
Ed Pohle truly had sawdust in his veins. His love and knowledge of hardwoods
from all over the world, as well as his experience in logging operations
of the Pacific Northwest and South America, quickly made him an authority
on wood. Ed is also noted for pioneering the "do-it-yourself"
market by cutting long boards into shorter pieces so his customers could
dabble in woodworking without purchasing large amounts of wood.
Over the years Southern Lumber sold everything from El Toro sail boats
and ship building materials, to hard-to-find exotic hardwoods and veneers.
Southern Lumber quickly became known as the place where people could find
rare items; the sort of things that were difficult for customers to find,
much less purchase at a local store.
Through the 1960's, Ed's son, Bruce Pohle, grew up with wood in
the unique, retailing atmosphere of Southern Lumber Company. And after
graduating from San Jose State University, he began to push Southern Lumber
Company in a new direction by offering quality wood-related products beyond
the needs of the carpenter and woodworker. As home owners became empowered
with a "Do-It-Yourself" mentality, Southern Lumber began to
specialize in Doors, Mouldings, Cabinetry, and even had a locally famous
Picture Frame Workshop where its customers could create their own picture
frames with just a little help from Southern Lumber's staff.
Business continued to grow steadily until June of 1973, when Southern
Lumber encountered a devastating fire that burned the entire business
to the ground. In just a little more than one year, Southern Lumber rose
from the ashes, bigger and better than ever. A new 65,000 square foot
building provided nearly a half-acre of the finest woods and building
materials available in California. Southern Lumber grew from $800,000
annually in the early 1970s, to over $10,000,000 in 1996.
As the Santa Clara Valley transformed from an orchard community to the
booming Silicon Valley, the local lumber business changed, too. Southern
Lumber again re-focused its business on offering high quality grade wood,
supplies, and building materials. Today, Southern Lumber offers a wide
product mix of hundreds of moulding patterns, quality doors, and over
50 species of hardwoods. Today, Bruce's son, Jeff Pohle, is keeping
alive the Southern Lumber tradition of placing quality and service above all else.
The employees of Southern Lumber Company are the true heart and soul of
the business. Their care and commitment to their customers are second
to none, and they are completely focused on imparting information on "all
things wood" to its loyal customers, some of whom have been coming
to Southern Lumber since they were children. Periodically, we will find
a longtime, loyal customer that talks about coming Southern Lumber "before
the fire", or "back when Woodworking Guilds would hold their
monthly meetings at Southern." Occasionally, we'll even hear
some highly amusing stories about how Ed Pohle would take on "city
policies" and practice civil disobedience in some creative way…..Our
customers' experiences lend an interesting and colorful backdrop to
one of San Jose's most beloved, family businesses.
Southern Lumber Company is still solely owned and operated by the Pohle
family, insuring consistency in the principles that established it as
a landmark business in the Santa Clara Valley almost 100 years ago. Southern
Lumber may be one of the last remaining independent lumberyards, but it
still remains at the top of list of San Jose locals that want that old-time,
service oriented, non-warehouse shopping experience.