The pull of family is strong at this three-location lumberyard in Cherokee territory between Tulsa and the Arkansas border. So strong, in fact, that even the lure of a football career couldn’t compete for Skinner’s son (and Tahlequah vice president) Mike, an offensive lineman for the Oklahoma Sooners on the 2000 Orange Bowl championship team, who joined the family business after graduating.
We’re fortunate to have six family members in the business: my wife, and my son and daughter and their spouses. We have lunch around my desk half the time. My wife’s father bought the business in 1949 when he was in college. Patty was a daddy’s girl, and would come down to the store and spend time with him. Later she started doing the books part time, and she still does that today. We are so fortunate our children are interested in the business, and we are looking at further opportunities to grow. We bought Pryor [Lumber] in 2008 just before the economy went downhill, and Wagoner [Lumber] we bought in 2015. All of the family members are located in Tahlequah, and we all live about a mile from one another. `Our dream would be to have the five grandkids in the business.
Competing for Business
We built this business in Tahlequah because we wanted to make sure we could compete with other local yards, and then Lowe’s built just three blocks down the street. That’s when we joined Do It Best and asked them for advice. We have managed to survive even though things haven’t always worked out as we would like it. We are proud of the fact that we have never had to lay off an employee. In slow times we found other work for them to do.
[The tribe] puts out bids for 15 or 30 houses at a time, so we bid on those through our contractors. We don’t do a lot of commercial work; it’s mostly residential. The tribe is a huge part of our state, and the Cherokee are part of our community. Most of our employees are Indians.
Looking to the Future
There isn’t a rail site in the county. Without having a rail site we can’t ship in rail cars of lumber. We have to ship from Tulsa. We have looked at several other yards, some with rail sites. I think we would prefer to stay within an hour of two of our current locations. Eventually, we need to develop a corporate name. It needs to be unanimous, but one name is the one thing we can’t come up with.