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90 Years Strong

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Lezzer Lumber, with 10 full line lumberyards, three commercial door divisions, a truss plant and a kitchen and bath showroom, isn’t done growing. CEO Mike Lezzer anticipates another increase in revenues this year, topping 2016’s $120 million.

Celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, the family-owned company set roots in 1927 when Mike Lezzer’s grandfather, Michael Lezzer, acquired a small-town hardware, lumber, and machinery dealer with two of his cousins. The business was originally called Lezzer Sandri Farm Machinery and Lumber Supply, named after Michael Lezzer and cousins Charles and Lewis Sandri.

“With the depression right around the corner somehow they survived it,” Mike Lezzer said. “It wasn’t a lumberyard like we have today. In the winter they assembled farm machinery and sold it in the spring. The summer months were for the lumber business.”

Mike Lezzer’s father, Maurice, was born the same year Michael Lezzer opened shop. By 1949, Maurice Lezzer and his brother, Kenneth, joined the company and split off the lumber business from the hardware and farm supply. Maurice and Kenneth went on to form Lezzer Lumber, while the cousins continued with the farm supply store.

The brothers worked at the business together, under the tutelage of Michael Lezzer. In 1971, a fire nearly wiped out the lumber business. “They suspected arson, but could never prove it,” Mike Lezzer said. “The fire took 90% of our operation. Offices, vehicles, forklifts, trucks, 90% of the inventory was all gone.”

The Lezzers didn’t quit, however. While the fire struck on a Saturday night, the company was open for business Monday morning. Area lumberyards and dedicated vendors helped them out. Even competitors lent them trucks, forklifts, and enough inventory to maintain operations.

Michael Lezzer was at retirement age by the time of the fire, so to make it easier on the business, he handed over the company to his sons Maurice and Kenneth, who chose to rebuild the company at a new location about a half-mile from the original site.

“There must have been some good economies during those times,” Mike Lezzer said. “We quickly rebuilt and then expanded into a new market about 20 miles away.”

From there, Lezzer’s has grown to its current size of more than 10 locations throughout Pennsylvania.

“I’ve been working there my whole life,” Mike Lezzer said. “My dad (Maurice) always told me and my brother David that as long as we’re living under his roof, we’ll come in and work on Saturdays. We went on deliveries, stacked boards, and cleaned the mill, all things that young guys in the business do.”

Maurice Lezzer, Chairman of the board
Maurice Lezzer, chairman of the board.
Lezzer Lumber is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Left to right: Elmer Hallstrom, Maurice Lezzer, Rose Lezzer, Dennis Lezzer, Ken Lezzer (circa 1973).

Mike Lezzer knew he always wanted to be in the business, so after he graduated high school he went to work at a Lezzer location about 50 miles away. After working for a year, he decided he had “plenty of time to work,” so he went to college for four years. He finished college around the same time Lezzer opened its State College, Penn., store, so he and his brother were put in charge of the location.

Lezzer’s brother, David, as well as his sisters Cathie and Lisa, his uncle’s son, K.C. and K.C.’s sisters Linda, Julie and Diane are still involved in the company. Mike is CEO, David is president, and K.C. is the company vice president.

Now with 10 full line lumberyards, three commercial door divisions, a truss plant and a kitchen and bath showroom, Mike Lezzer said there’s no reason to think Lezzer Lumber is done growing. A fleet of 80 delivery trucks, boom trucks, moffetts, an outside sales force, and installed sales professionals help keep growth projections steady and healthy. Revenues last year topped $120 million, and are estimated to grow this year even more than 2016’s 5% increase.

“We’re always on the lookout for an opportunity,” he said. “If it’s something that fits, we’re certainly interested in looking at it. We pretty much have the state of Pennsylvania surrounded, and it’s really not in our game plan to leave the state, but there are markets we see interesting within the state. We just need to have the right opportunity come along.”