Taylor’s to close lumber yard in New Milford
NEW MILFORD — After 114 years in business on Railroad Street, H.H. Taylor & Son is scaling back its business with the closing of the lumber yard.
The hardware store, an iconic fixture in town, and the equipment rental center will remain open but the barn holding the timber will be emptied and sales stopped on Nov. 28 at noon. In the weeks before closing, markdowns on wood building products will range between 20 percent and 80 percent.
“This was a very hard decision,” said Steve Lewis, vice president of operations. “It was several years in the making. It was driven by the economy, the competition and the difficulty keeping up with necessary volume given the cost of goods.”
Taylor’s is a town landmark. It seems everyone’s been there at least once. Many still recall the dark clouds of smoke billowing over the village center in 1978, when a fire nearly destroyed the lumber yard.
The business began informally when present owner Harry Taylor’s father, Harry Sr., started a contracting company on a lot just north of the train station. Over the years, the business sold coal, fuel oil and feed. Hardware and lumber have remained Taylor’s staple.
At 85, Harry Taylor has stepped back from day-to-day workings of the business. Lewis, his son-in-law, and Taylor’s daughter, Susan Sennello, vice president of finance, run the operation. But the move to close the lumber yard was a family decision, Sennello said.
“To keep the warehouse fully stocked, we’d need four times’ the goods we have at this time,” Sennello said about the 170-foot by 50-foot warehouse.
“When the shift from home building by professionals to homeowners doing the work themselves happened, our business changed,” Lewis said. “Homeowners, not being professionals, don’t know the difference in quality between our lumber product and what they buy through a chain. We were always known for our quality pine and pressure-treated wood.”
Lewis said they have struggled for the last decade to keep the yard open. But they found themselves relying on sales to “single pick-up builders” since the “housing bubble burst.”
“We are continuing to carry masonry products and sand,” he said. “We just got in a large delivery of winter supplies, fully stocked with ice melt and snow shovels. The hardware store business model will be a convenience hardware offering. We’ll carry what our customers need the most.”
“You have to adapt with the times,” Sennello said.
Since he was 14, Harry Taylor’s trademark crew cut was a staple at the business. He was in the office at 6 a.m. six days a week from the time he took control of the business in the 1970s after his half-brother, Ken, died. His wife, Bianka Taylor, ran the office for decades. Sennello remembers being there as a child, a coloring book on her lap, listening to the clack of the old mechanical adding machine.
In the 1980s, Taylor served as chairman of the town’s Board of Finance. He treated the town budget as though the money were coming out of his own pocket, old-timers report. He was not a big spender.
“You’re in the business to make money, but you’re also in business to serve the community and maybe that’s more important,” Taylor said at the business’ 100th anniversary in 2001.
H. H. Taylor & Son, 85 Railroad St., New Milford is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. Call 860-354-4441 for more information.