Centuries in the Making: Alexander Lumber (est. 1891)

Centuries in the Making: Alexander Lumber (est. 1891)

BY HBSDealer Staff

The April issue of HBSDealer profiled a handful of lumberyards that have survived and thrived beyond the century mark. One of the keys to success across the board: They move on when opportunities present themselves.

See the April 2018 digital edition here.

What follows below is a look at Alexander Lumber, an Illinois institution since 1891.

Alexander Lumber (est. 1891

Alexander Lumber, with 18 retail locations in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa, celebrates 127 years in the lumber business.

The company’s roots stretch back to the 1870s when the Alexander family arrived in Wisconsin by way of Scotland and began a sawmill business. Along with retail lumberyards, including 15 locations in Illinois, the company now operates truss plants in Cortland and Le Roy, Ill., and a showroom and sales office in Twin Lakes, Wis.

The first actual Alexander Lumber location opened in 1891 with the aid of two partners, Tom Brittingham and Joe Hixon, and a $5,000 loan from Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago.

John Alexander, the youngest of the Alexander immigrants, eventually expanded the company, which grew with the railroad industry. Alexander expanded west through a series of land leases and “line yards,” which were small-scale yards along the railroad route.

By the 1920s, more than 100 of these small lumberyards were under the control of John Alexander.

The company eventually expanded product lines and built a showroom to serve contractors and builders. Otto Unteed managed day-to-day operations of the company from 1940 until his retirement in 1966.

Russ Kathrein was named president and CEO of the company in September 2014 and Alexander Lumber celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016. The company expanded into Iowa in 2016 when it acquired Nagle Lumber of Iowa City.

“Alexander Lumber has been looking for high-quality companies that will allow us to grow, while at the same time, diversify our business outside of the Illinois economy that has been our traditional base of business,” Kathrein said at the time.


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