East Coast Lumber & Supply Company, like many businesses that began in the early 1900’s, was born of an idea to fulfill specific needs. The idea in this case was to provide crates for local fruit and vegetable growers to ship their goods and to have lumber available for local customers for building construction and repair. Back in those early days there were no tried and true business plans or marketing strategies for companies to use as guidelines, so the East Coast Lumber founders were forced to use trial and error to determine the best and most economical ways to run their lumberyards. During the first half of the 20th century there were many hardships and stumbling blocks that confronted businesses of all types, the most notable being World War I and II and The Great Depression. When you combine those major events in American history with the fact that transportation at the beginning of that century was limited to horse and carriage, river boats, and the steam powered locomotive, it becomes obvious how difficult it was to start and grow a business during those hard times.
HERE IS OUR STORY.
East Coast Lumber & Supply Company was founded on July 12, 1902 in Eau Gallie, Florida, a little town on the banks of the Indian River that is now the northern part of the city of Melbourne. In the early days of the company its holdings were limited to three facilities, some livestock and a schooner, aptly named The Sunny South, which was used to move supplies and lumber up and down the coastline since roads were not yet a feasible way to transport these items. By 1904, just two years after its inception, the company had already added to its resources with purchases of additional livestock and wagons to deliver materials and supplies to customers and to move lumber between its yards. In that same year the board of directors decided it was time to expand and voted to purchase three land parcels in Fort Pierce, these parcels would have structures built on them that would house a lumberyard, a millwork facility, and eventually the corporate headquarters, and all are operational there today. East Coast Lumber continued in its expansion mode and by 1907 had operations in Eau Gallie, Fort Pierce, Cocoa, and West Palm Beach.
In those early days, customers in Eau Gallie and Cocoa had to haul their own purchases while Fort Pierce and West Palm had begun to make deliveries using donkeys and wagons. The Sunny South had been taken out of service the previous year, so the trend had already begun to swing to land transport of materials rather than on the river.
From its inception, much of East Coast Lumber’s business came from the local fruit and vegetable growers. The company provided them with ready to assemble “crate kits”. These kits consisted of wooden slats and wire, packed flat, that when assembled created crates for shipping pineapples, citrus fruits, and vegetables. The kits even included tissue paper, complete with the Indian River imprint, for wrapping produce. The original logo mark of East Coast Lumber included these crates, depicting them as seen through a spyglass.
The founders of East Coast Lumber were true patriots and were always ready to serve the nation in whatever capacity they could, whether by curtailing non-essential construction, supplying materials and millwork to army air stations, or through the purchase of Liberty Bonds, they stood behind and supported their country through all the difficult times. When World War I ended on November 11, 1918, and the United States emerged victorious, the remaining founders and directors etched a lasting patriotic statement in the minutes of the January 1919 meeting of the board that read:
“Uppermost in the minds of all true Americans during the year that has now come to a close, has been the Winning of the War. It is therefore with a great deal of patriotic pride that we take this opportunity to record in the permanent records of our organization that we have been able to take some part in bringing the conflict to so glorious a conclusion.”
As the nation’s economy began to get back on track and businesses across the country began to operate under normal conditions once again, East Coast Lumber continued its expansion. In 1916 the company had purchased an existing lumberyard in Miami that would prove to be the southernmost venture in the company’s history. By 1922 East Coast Lumber had moved into the age of the automobile and had purchased numerous vehicles to make deliveries and move materials between locations. Livestock used to transport lumber was fast becoming a thing of the past. In 1924, land was purchased in Melbourne and a new yard was constructed there, while that same year the company opened a yard in Okeechobee. The following year a site was purchased in Sebastian to construct yet another yard.
The company continued with profitable growth in the majority of its locations until 1927 when the nation’s economy began a downturn as the entire country entered the period that would come to be known as the Great Depression. During this stressful and financially devastating time, East Coast Lumber was forced to close several locations in an effort to downsize the company and reduce losses.
In September of 1939, the United States entered into World War II and the company once again displayed its patriotic stance and commitment to its key employees as the board decided that:
“Any yard manager going into military service be retained on the payroll at an amount sufficient to make up the difference between Government allotment and his salary at the time he entered military service.”
By 1942, East Coast Lumber was down to just four lumberyard locations, in Cocoa, Melbourne, Fort Pierce, and Stuart, plus the Millwork operation that had been set up alongside the Fort Pierce location. In 1945, as the war ended and business returned to normal, the company began to once again show a profit and the Eau Gallie location was reopened. It would be almost 5 years later in 1949 when East Coast Lumber would purchase an existing building supply company in Vero Beach and begin operating in that city for the first time.
Over the next twenty years, East Coast Lumber would continue to flourish as the east coast of Florida became more populated and saw new industries come into the area. In the early sixties when the Eau Gallie location was unable to turn a profit and a “Cash and Carry” operating mode did not work, that yard was closed for the final time. It would be four years later in 1966 when the company would once again open an operation in Eau Gallie but this time it was to be a manufacturing plant for roof trusses that would remain in operation there for the next 44 years. The company would open another smaller lumberyard facility in Port St. Lucie in the mid-80’s fueled by an influx in interest in that area by a number of large home builders, but in the late 90’s would close it when that interest waned and a drop in the national economy would slow development as well. Finally in the late 90’s, the company would build a new truss manufacturing plant west of town in Fort Pierce and would keep that operation through the building boom that ended in 2006, eventually selling it and the Melbourne truss plant property effectively closing that chapter in the company’s truss manufacturing history.
Today, the company still operates three of the same core facilities it has for over 100 years in Cocoa, Melbourne, and Fort Pierce, and two that have been operating for over half a century in Stuart and Vero Beach. East Coast Lumber is still owned today by descendants of the original founders and because of this generation to generation ownership, still holds close at heart the same unwavering commitment to its employees and to its customers. Throughout its long history, all the way up to today, East Coast Lumber & Supply Company still stands behind its original logo statement,
“We’re here to help you build a better way.”