Harrison Shull/Novus Select

Duncan Box & Lumber gets the first half of its name because it started as a wooden crate and industrial pallet maker. It turned into a full-service lumberyard, mill, and hardware store, but late last year its 117-year history nearly came to an end. That’s when Norman Taylor, a local who owns a nearby metal scrap yard, and two siblings stepped up and bought the place. Call Taylor the accidental lumberman.

Why Buy? We’re gluttons for punishment. Believe it or not, we didn’t look too much at the financials of the business going in except that the real estate was worth the price of the whole thing. That still is our plan B, though I don’t think we’ll ever have to use it. [The Duncan family] has had a strong relationship with contractors and rental property owners and is a known resource for industrial doors, door closures, and door locks given its proximity to the two major hospitals and Marshall University in Huntington. We’d like to increase that business.

We’re Rebuilding the Place one thing at a time and are paying as we go. The former owners were planning to retire and were having trouble finding a buyer, so they stopped investing in the business. To get everything up to standard, including the mill, it’s going to take about $200,000. We’ve spent the last month and a half putting in a new retail shelving system to better manage inventory and, literally, turned the store around to make it more customer-friendly. We’re using some of the damaged lumber that was already here to do repair work on the lumber sheds.

This Market Has Been pretty level for several years. It’s a 15- to 20-minute drive in any direction to the big boxes. With the price of gas, that gives us a little niche market. It’s hard for us to sell a complete home package, but we’re small and can offer convenience. Contractors can get in and out in a couple of minutes rather than wait in line behind retail customers.

Our Biggest Challenge is getting the word out that we’re still up and running. The Duncans told several customers that they were probably going to close, so we’re working hard to get our name out there. Since Jan. 1, we’ve spent about $10,000 in radio, television, and print advertising. And yes, we plan to keep the name.