Squier Lumber, Monson, Mass., is nearly 150-years-old, but it didn't begin to sell its most popular product, wood pellets, until the mid-1990s. At that time, Squier Lumber co-owner Chris Haley bought a load of Energex pellets and sold them for $150 per ton. Ron Kotrba, writing for Pellet Mills magazine, writes of the business boom that ensued for Squier Lumber:

“At that time, we were a lumber yard that also sold pellets,” Haley says. “And—it’s funny—in the ensuing 20 years, the pellet thing grew uninterrupted since then. So now, we are more of a pellet supplier that also sells lumber.”

Today, wood pellets and pellet stoves sales represent 60 to 70 percent of Squier Lumber’s business, depending on the year. “They’re absolutely vital to our business,” Haley says. “It’s ironic. The reason we got into pellet sales was to be diversified. Here we are, 20 years later, and we are less diversified. You take opportunities as they are presented to you. There’s only so much you can make happen. If a wave is appearing beneath you, you better ride it. I thank God for that wave. It was much bigger than us, but we caught it at the right time.”

While wood pellet sales have been good in the past, Haley isn't sure what sales will be like this winter, and predicts that they could be down as much as 50%. He further cautions those who are looking to begin selling wood pellets:

“When we made our investments, pellets were growing by leaps and bounds,” he says. “We were optimistic and growing, and pellets were ready to take over the world. It was easy to buy a $250,000 truck and forklift in that scenario. Now, it’s a lot more difficult because a lot of the growth in the industry has already happened. It may be a while, if we ever see that again. I am privileged to have seen this business grow from nothing into something. So the stuff we benefited from doesn’t necessarily apply today. I would tell that guy to care about the business, invest in the business, but not so much that it causes him to go broke. Capital is a wonderful thing. And I would say be different than the big box stores.” Being good to customers is important, he says, but it’s also imperative to be good to suppliers. “It works in your favor,” he says. “They remember that.”

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