Smithers Lumberyard has gone through years of forest industry up and downs, changes of ownership, and changed its name several times, but it has stayed in business for over 100 years.
For the past 50 years, Fred Hofsink has been a familiar face for customers. He bought the business with his brothers Bill and George in 1965, and though his son Harry is now in charge, Fred still regularly visits the coffee break room at the store off Highway 16.
He reminisced with his brothers on how they unexpectedly came to own the store when he was 32 years old.
“We were green as grass,” said Fred.
“In ‘64, we started Triple H Construction. We started building houses, and then we asked to rent this empty warehouse. He [long-time owner A.C. Fowler] said no, you can buy the whole works.”
“Then those two sweet brothers, they’re by far the best carpenters. They said well, your carpentering is so-so, so you’re on the lumberyard,” explained Fred as Bill and George nodded.
“Couldn’t make a carpenter out of him no how,” agreed Bill.
Brothers Bill, George and Ben came and went, and then came back again. But it was Fred who stayed on as owner until he passed the lumberyard on to his sons Willy, Harry, and Fred Jr. in 1998. Harry has been the sole owner since 2013.
There are now 26 employees working for Harry, which is a lot more than what Fred started with when he was working out of the old location near the railroad on Alfred Avenue.
“For the first year, one. The second year, two,” said Fred, listing his employee numbers.
“Then all of a sudden we had four or five guys.”
“Then we knew we had to move here,” said Bill.
The brothers moved to the current location in 1972, a huge change according to Fred. The heated warehouse was built in 1981.
“I thought I wouldn’t quit, but I retired when I had my three sons here,” said Fred.
Smithers Lumberyard is celebrating 50 years with the Hofsinks this weekend.