Jeff Powers
Tom Rockwell / Jeff Powers

When you're on an island in Lake Michigan 32 miles off the mainland, running the only lumberyard can be rough. But Jeff Powers is more than an LBM dealer: He is also the island's only practicing veterinarian. Here's how he serves two- and four-footed customers:

Thick Ice. The ferry quits running in December due to icing conditions. If we have a mild winter, the boat will start running again in March. The only other way to get in here is by airplane. ...We buy a decent quantity of everything for the winter months, especially things you cannot get on the plane: paint, nails, all of your lumber, cements. Freight costs on an airplane are four times what it costs you on the ferry.

Not So Slow. Even in this depressed market we are quoting a lot of packages for different building projects. What we try to do for [contractors] is get all the materials to complete the whole house before winter ends. When you get toward March, we see a lot of finish work, so if you run out of drywall or trim, it's just not possible to get the job done.

The Price is Right. You have to be in the ballpark with your pricing. Home Depot is 15 miles from the ferry dock, and on a big project they will do a free delivery using the ferry system. Yes, we are the only place on the island, but we are competing all the time with big boxes and independent lumberyards on the mainland.

Dr. Powers. Before I got into this, I was a practicing veterinarian for 29 years. When I first came to the island I received a lot of requests to provide veterinary services. This led me to opening a small clinic at the back of the store. We predominantly deal with small animals, such as dogs and cats, along with some cattle and horses. We have also rehabilitated injured fawns, waterfowl, and hawks. I'm looking to become a licensed rehabilitator for wildlife.