HAZARD — The Home Lumber Company of Hazard celebrated its 100th anniversary last week. Members of the Morton family, who own the company, and a large crowd of community leaders, employees, friends, and faithful customers gathered in the lumberyard for a free and open-to-the-public barbecue.
Janet Cornett, a local artist from Maces Creek, painted a mural on the wall of one of the buildings, recording the history of the Home Lumber Company from its beginnings as a sawmill to the thriving business it is today.
Betty Morton, wife of William P. Morton and mother of the current owners, William Peyton Morton III and Wade Wiley Morton, said the company has been around so long due to the support of its longtime customers.
“I think it’s absolutely remarkable, because in this day and time, businesses don’t last that long,” she said at the celebration on Thursday. “They change hands, they’re sold off. This is the oldest one in Hazard under the same management.”
According to a company-produced booklet, providing a historical sketch of the business, three generations of Mortons have owned and operated Home Lumber, helping to build and create it at the outset, as well as working to expand the business through the years.
“We’re real grateful to be here,” said current co-owner, William Peyton Morton III, who is known in the community simply as “Peyton.”
“For a hundred years, we’ve gone through a lot —- floods and fires and big-box retailers coming in,” he continued. “But we’ve managed to stay right here.”
Morton said he believed that Home Lumber’s quality of service to the people of Eastern Kentucky has greatly contributed to their staying power in the area.
Business has taken a hit, though, he said, from the economic hardships produced by the waning of the region’s coal industry.
“People don’t buy a new house or add that room on or pour a new driveway, if you don’t have money or got laid off,” Morton said.
Home Lumber has survived, he said, due to the company having different aspects and not just relying on the sale of lumber.
“We’ve got a woodshop, a glass shop, a plumbing and electric store,” he said. “You can get just about anything you need over here for a house.”
In fact, Morton said the company has recently built a new and expanded plumbing and electrical department.
While Home Lumber relies on the relationships it has forged with the local community, Morton indicated that 80% of the company’s business comes from large contactors. One of those contractors, Dealer’s Warehouse out of Knoxville, Tn., presented a plaque to Home Lumber during the day’s celebration in recognition of the long-term business between the two.
But the day mostly belonged to the people. Morton was quick to shine the spotlight on his employees.
“Our employees, you know, that’s what makes a company,” he said. “We’ve got a good bunch, and we try to provide a good place for them to work. We try to treat everybody with respect.”
Home Lumber employees helped to hand out high-priced door prizes to fellow workers and guests, all of whom had their names written on tickets that were drawn out at random. Various home improvement tools were won, as well as a hickory folding table, which had been custom-built by the company’s woodshop.
“We just appreciate all of the support we’ve had over all the years,” Morton said. “We’re glad that we’ve been here to service them. And, hopefully, we’ll be here for many years to come.”
Mindy Miller can be reached at 606-436-5771 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.