|This month, Bruce Bauer Lumber and Supply is celebrating a 70-year journey that took the family business from Oregon to Mountain View, where it has thrived for more than half of that time.
The store, tucked behind the train tracks in San Antonio Circle, serves customers from Santa Clara to Woodside, who go to obtain materials and advice for their home remodels and other projects. It is now owned by the grandsons of Bruce Bauer, Darryl and David Thom. Oct. 5 will mark its 70th anniversary.
Though the frantic pace of homebuilding and remodels has definitely slowed with the recent credit crunch, it doesn't worry Darryl Thom.
"This feels like it used to feel in normal years," he said last Friday, sitting among numerous rolled-up construction plans. These days, with less weekend business from do-it-yourselfers, he estimates that over 80 percent of his business is from contractors.
The business has been around long enough to know what a "normal year" is like. Bruce Bauer Lumber began during the Depression era, 1938, in Medford, Ore. Back then, according to an old invoice on Darryl's office wall, you could buy 11,000 board-feet of lumber for $155.
Bauer got his introduction to the business as a "whistle spit" in the logging industry, warning others of falling trees. On Darryl Thom's wall, an old picture shows Bauer as a young man standing among a crowd of workers in front of an old locomotive used for hauling logs.
The family opened its first Bay Area store in San Carlos in 1957. Bauer had done some homebuilding at the San Francisco Presidio and other Peninsula locales, including the homes along Bauer Drive in San Carlos, where his son-in-law, Don Thom (Darryl's father), still lives in one of the homes Bauer built.
The San Carlos store stood on El Camino Real until 1991, when it was forced to close after the property was taken by eminent domain to make way for a Caltrain expansion. It was the longest storefront around, stretching for almost two blocks between Brittan Avenue and Arroyo Drive, Darryl said.
The company would have gone out of business then if not for the store that Don Thom had opened in Mountain View after acquiring Bickell Brothers Lumber in 1971.
In its 37 years in Mountain View, the store has sponsored at least two Pony League baseball teams a year, supplied Eagle Scouts with free materials for projects, and donated materials to local schools for picnic tables and vegetable gardens.
The store appears to be set for many more years of operation, and Darryl's high school-age son has started working there part-time. But one small change to the decades-old business plan is in the works: Soon Bruce Bauer Lumber and Supply will be closed on Sundays, with employee hours rearranged to better serve increasing weekday business.
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