R. R. Branstrom | Daily Press
Employee Isaiah Trent, operating a forklift, moves a bunk of lumber in the yard at 41 Lumber in Escanaba.
EDITOR NOTE: The Daily Press will be featuring a series of articles on local businesses, highlighting their history and what makes them unique. The series will run on a regular basis in the Daily Press.
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ESCANABA — With locations across the Upper Peninsula, 41 Lumber — a supplier of home building materials comprised of knowledgable sales staff, builders, design professionals, retail stores and lumber yards — began when two individuals, Albert Quandt and Edward Hamar, purchased the Pryor Lumber Company in Houghton 99 years ago. Today, the much-evolved business continues to be managed by succeeding generations of the Quandt family.
In 1925, when Edward and Albert bought from the Pryor widow the Houghton business they renamed Hamar Quandt Company, it was comprised of a few warehouse buildings with a large bandsaw, a profiler, a planer, and a space for manufacturing windows and doors.
Over the next 15 years, under the Hamar Quandt name, the company grew to include three yards. In ’29, they opened a yard in Laurium — a village within Calumet Township — to serve the northern Keweenaw. The third yard opened in Ontanogan in 1940, and this one brought expanded services by adding in contract work.
“We were in fuel oil, coal — we had our own construction side up until 1975,” said Albert’s great-grandson, manager David Quandt. “It was a full-service lumberyard at the time; we had a metalwork shop and did windows and trim.”
During that era, the Ontanogan branch of Hamar Quandt built 13 structures around the White Pine Copper Mine, including the pilot mine shaft housing and a dozen small homes. The yard closed in 1960.
By 1975, the Hamar family wanted to exit the business, so the Quandts bought them out. The same year, under the leadership of Stephen Quandt — David’s father — a new yard was opened in Marquette given the moniker 41 Lumber. In 1976, the Laurium yard was rebuilt, and the entire company was renamed 41 Lumber.
In 1980, a yard and distribution center were opened in Quinnesec, which became the company headquarters. Today, Quinnesec remains the hub for distribution.
In ’85, the Houghton yard relocated just a couple miles away on U.S. Highway 41. The site of the original lumber yard at “Pryor’s Location” (the name given to the small community around the Pryor Lumber Company), on the Portage Lake Canal, now houses a Super 8 hotel.
In 1991, 41 Lumber arrived in Escanaba with the purchase of Ed’s Building Supply.
2003 brought two more locations into the mix when 41 bought building centers in Newberry and Munising from Tri-County Lumber. The Newberry one has since closed.
Finally, in 2005, 41 Lumber acquired the former Delta Do-It Center in Escanaba from Ken Gartland. All Escanaba business moved to that location — 6669 U.S. 2 and 41 — which has provided a layout more conducive to their work.
In 2021, a kitchen, bath and home design center opened in Iron Mountain, a 10-minute drive from the Quinnesec headquarters.
“We’re kind of going back to our roots,” said David of the new design center, “because we had a home center many, many years ago. … We’ve been in a lot of shoes over the years and filled many areas of service.”
The 41 Lumber stores and yards in Escanaba, Houghton, Laurium, Marquette, Munising and Quinnesec all offer pretty much the same products and services. As an exception, the Escanaba store doesn’t sell flooring, which enables them to maintain a good relationship with the nearby Carpet and Drapery Shoppe. But lumber, cabinetry, decking, hardware, exterior siding, windows — wide selections of all are available through 41 Lumber, and all are geared towards contractors and homeowners.
“A project can start from an idea, move to our home designers and then to finished product through us,” David explained.
From the designers, to a color-matching expert, to lumber yard workers that keep things moving, the people of 41 Lumber can be involved at any or all stages of a project. The company no longer employs their own builders and contractors, but they work closely with all parties involved to fill key roles in the whole process.
“We have our inside sales, which are kind of a jack of all trades. Some have their strong suits — windows, trim, siding, roofing — it all depends on the person,” said David.
“Outside sales entails taking care of the contractor,” he continued. “They will go out, visit the contractor on job sites, measure — They will see a build through from ground to roof. They are there for contractor support — making sure everything gets delivered on time, it’s ordered correctly, isn’t damaged when it comes in. So they’re pretty hands-on through the whole process. … The outside sales will also deal with the homeowner, picking of colors of siding, doors, that kind of thing. They’re working hand-in-hand with both. And we pride ourselves on service.”
As the fourth generation of the family to be involved with running the business, David has long-standing ties to 41 Lumber. He said he began sweeping the floors in Marquette when he was five years old.
His sister, Carol, is the COO and manages a lot of the daily operations across 41 Lumber. Their father, Stephen, is the President.
David said some of his most interesting experiences with the company were when he was a delivery driver. He said he enjoyed seeing the stunning spots people have found to create astonishing homes, citing the exclusive Huron Mountain Club as just one.
“I’ve been back into the woods where a lot of people don’t go and seen some pretty beautiful places, too. Some of the larger places we’ve done…” He trailed off in thought, then added, “You would be surprised at what is hidden in the woods in the U.P.”
When asked what sets 41 Lumber apart from competitors, David explained that as they conclude a century in business, they’ve “seen it all,” pride themselves in service and always strive to fulfill a customer’s vision.