Over 100 Years of Service and Selection
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.