Mimi Mettam, owner, Mettam Brothers Lumber, St. Clair, Pa.
Mimi Mettam, owner, Mettam Brothers Lumber, St. Clair, Pa.

Trained in classical ballet, Mimi Mettam never saw herself running the family yard founded by her great-grandfather in 1885. But in 2014, her brother Sean’s death cast her in that new role. It turns out her dancer’s discipline and three years spent running her own ballet studio proved excellent training for the job.

Settling In
It took me about a year to figure out my place in the business. Sean had lumber in his bones. He was here in the yard from the time he was 12. Sean was charismatic, but working a desk wasn’t his thing. I realized I don’t have to be Sean; I have to be me.

Making Connections
When I first started working with Sean, I found that when customers called in, they always wanted to speak with him. It took awhile to get them to trust me. I’m especially good with homeowners, and with the contractors, I feel like I’m almost part of their business. You get close to them. I do spoil my customers.

Between the Boxes
We have a Lowe’s we can walk to south of us and a Home Depot we can walk to north of us. When Lowe’s first came here, there were three other local yards, and they pretty much dwindled and gave up. We saw some loss early on, but our people came back. We’re 80% contractor based.

New and Expanded
While the basis of the business is lumber and roofing, I’ve taken over a couple of hundred feet to devote to kitchen and bath, and I’m hoping to have the footprint in place for that by this winter. Pre-Lowe’s, we could do OK with an 8-foot run of cabinets, but now, you have to have something substantial. Another thing I’ve brought to the table is vinyl railing and fencing, and that’s been fabulous for us. We use Superior Plastic, and we grew together organically when they went out on their own.

Looking Forward
I have two sons who run deliveries and the crane shop. I hope they’ll be the fifth generation to carry the business forward.