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Rand Lumber in Rye to close

Union Leader Correspondent

December 03. 2012 8:48PM
Jim Rand looks over the depleted stocks of pine boards at his family's lumberyard on Monday. Jim and his siblings, Kathy and Ken Rand, are selling the family business after more than 100 years in operation. Rand Lumber's last day of operation will be Friday. (GRETYL MACALASTER/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

RYE - The sheds and barns that dot the Rand Lumber Yard used to be stocked with every size of pine board imaginable. The yard itself in the 1980s was stacked with pine trees higher than the planing mill, representing more than 200,000 board feet in logs.

On Monday, Jim Rand surveyed the depleted stocks and dilapidated mill that was started in 1905 by his grandfather, Edgar J. Rand, with sadness as he and his two siblings prepare to close the business.

Jim Rand started working at the mill in 1968, before he was even out of high school, and has run the business with his brother, Ken, and sister, Kathy, for more than 40 years.

But poor economic conditions, declining pine sales and no fourth generation stepping up to take the helm, the Rand family is closing the doors on their lumber business for good.

Over this week, Rand will sell off what it can before everything goes to auction, including the 92-acre property.

About 65 acres of the property are in current use as a tree farm, and Jim Rand said he would like to see it stay that way, but he is not sure what will happen to the property.

Edgar Rand opened the first mill on his farm in 1905 using steam and sold his first product in 1910. The original boiler still stands in the old mill.

Electric motors took the place of steam engines in the early 1950s. Over the next 40 years, the business flourished. Jim Rand's father and uncle and their wives saw the retail yard prosper and added a dry kiln to speed up the lumber-drying process.

Ken, Jim and Kathy Rand saw the addition of hydraulics on the saw carriage, de-barker and chipper as well as the addition of a boom truck for deliveries.

Throughout more than a century of operation, Rand Lumber Co. achieved a reputation for good quality lumber, reasonable pricing and good, knowledgeable, friendly service.

In November, Gov. John Lynch awarded Rand Lumber a citation recognizing its 102-year anniversary.

"The honesty that has been part of Rand is something we will miss," customer Annamarie Marcroft of Portsmouth said on her way out of the yard on Monday.

Jim Rand said the community has always supported the business. When a fire nearly destroyed it once, the community rallied to gather the money to rebuild it. Jim Rand said they still have a log of the donations somewhere in a collection of historical documents and photographs related to the business.

Jim Rand said he always liked working with his hands, and will miss everything that comes with turning each unique tree into a beautiful and usable product.

"Every one is a different shape and size with an opportunity to work it into certain things. In an instant you have to determine what that best use is," Jim Rand said as he brushed sawdust from the old saw carriage.

He said there have been some emotional moments as customers have come in to bid the business farewell.

"There are people that want what we do here because it is a quintessential small business lumberyard," Jim Rand said. "It's a dying breed."

Jim Rand said he has another 10 years of work left in him and expects he will find a job in a related field.

But first, he is looking forward to his first long weekend in a very long time.

The final day of operation at Rand Lumber will be Friday, Dec. 7.

After the closing, a liquidation of all remaining business assets, including the 92-acres of real estate, will be put up for sale to the highest bidder.

Paul McInnis Inc. has been hired by the family to oversee the sale of all the business assets.

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