Oregon lumber company customers want to remain loyal
When 94-year-old Charles Schroeder passed away on Jan. 12, regular customers of his Oregon lumber company were caught by surprise.
They thought he would never stop working.
Minority partner Ken Younker says Schroeder, the co-owner of Schroeder and Younker Lumber Co. & Millwork on Brown Road in Oregon, was healthy and working in the woodshop a little over a month before his passing.
|Co-owners Ken Younker (left) and Charles
Schroeder, in October 2012, working in the
shop at Schroeder and Younker Lumber Co. &
Millwork on Brown Rd. in Oregon. (Press file
photo by Ken Grosjean)
Schroeder started the company in 1951 soon after marrying his wife, Joyce. Now that the boss is gone, the 65-year-old Younker, who began working there at age 16, doesn’t know what the future holds.
“I’m kind of in limbo. I don’t know what’s in the will,” Younker said. “I love the business, and I always have because I’m going to have been here 48 years. I like the people and I’ve made a lot of friends over those years. A lot of people really depend on us to stay around and help them with their projects and so forth. I’m hoping that I can keep it going.
“I have a routine, you know. I’ve done this six days a week for years and if you break that routine, you die,” Younker continued.
“Something I keep thinking about — Charlie started this in 1951 and I’d kind like to keep it going in memory to him. Back then, he worked his can off. He was the boss. This was his life. I think he lived, talk, and everything the lumber business.”
Younker is not the only one. Customers Carol McMahon-Williamson and Dave Deuble, both Oregon residents, are concerned, too.
“I hope that it does keep going,” Williamson said. “I have items over there right now, and I take things over there to be fixed or repaired. I love the business.
“That’s the place to go because they do a little bit of everything, no matter what kind of job, how small it is, or detailed. I can always depend on taking it over there and they do a great job. They can’t replace him. He’s one of a kind. It would be hard to replace him. He is an awesome man.
“I had bought an old support for a porch, a column, and it had decorative little knobs around it and some of them were missing. I took it in for Charlie to put an extension at the bottom because I wanted to put it in the yard with a lantern hanging from it, and I didn’t want to bury the pole, and he put a two by four extension, or whatever it was, and then he replaced the missing knobs. I couldn’t take that anywhere else and have them do what he did,” Williamson, an antique collector, said.
Old lumber yards disappearing
Deuble, raised in Pemberville, used to do business at lumber yards in Pemberville, Elmore, Bradner, and Wayne. Most are gone now.
“There isn’t anybody else that does this, except for maybe Wayne Lumber, but the ones like this are all closed up anymore,” Younker said. “Up on Starr Avenue, they used to have one and they tore that all down a couple years ago.”
A retired postal worker who graduated from Eastwood in 1973, Deuble moved to Oregon 25 years ago. Since relocating, Deuble has been a customer of Schroeder’s ever since, having spent an estimated $8,000-$10,000 there.
“Ken did an immaculate job on the wood furniture that I have in my house — so much so that I’d rather have him build stuff for me as opposed to buying it from (a furniture retailer),” Deuble said.
“It’s just immaculate — every single piece is oak. The attention to detail on what he’s done out there is just phenomenal. If it wasn’t for Charlie, Ken wouldn’t be around. I think it might be helpful for Ken to have the business stay afloat as long as they know Ken is running it now more than Charlie was.
“If you saw the chest of drawers that I got, I paid $1,800 for that — there are no knots in any of it. The seams are perfectly set. You can’t find workmanship like that anymore.
“I hate to see them drift off into never-never land,” Deuble continues. “I guess it all depends on the legal stuff. Charlie had a lot of character, so I hate to have him pass like some people do and you don’t ever hear of him after that. I think it would be respectful to remember the man.”
Williamson’s son, 43-year-old Kelly Turner, has been going to Schroeder’s since he was 5-years-old when his father would set him on the store’s counter.
“If you go and look on their shelves, some of the stuff they have on their shelves you can’t find anywhere else still. Their store looks like it is still back in that time, you know. You can find old stuff on that shelf that you can’t find anywhere else anymore,” Turner said.
An antique collector like his mother, Turner had the doors of an antique Victrola restored there.
“I always like going out there because they do specialized work, but they don’t have the business that they used to,” Turner said.
A few years back, Turner began driving a miniature Shriner’s car in the Oregon Festival parade with Schroeder advertising on it, and then began driving a restored Model T Ford.
“I was at the parade, and people were saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know they were still around. I didn’t know he was still alive.’ So, they got business from that, also,” Williamson said.
The antique business knew the kind of work Schroeder’s did, too. Their market was one niche faithful to Schroeder’s.
“I went to an antique sale on Pickle Road, and they had this antique handsaw and they had written on it, ‘Sharpening done,’” Williamson said. “I picked it up, and I was buying it for Charlie to put in his store, and I said to the guy, ‘I’m buying it for Schroeder’s’ and he goes, ‘You’re going to buy it for them? Well, just take it.’ So I took it down and they hung it in the store and they really liked it.”