Chester A. Niece founded our company in 1920. At the time the operation was focused on lumber, coal and feed. Niece had state of the art equipment at that time to help mill and bag grain, a 10,000 gallon molasses tank was part of the operation. Niece’s coal operation was complete with a trestle and hopper bin system, with conveyor’s to load coal onto the coal trucks. Feed and grain operations phased out in the 1950’s and 1970’s respectively, due to co-op operations.
Niece had its own saw mill and purchased logs locally that were sawn on site for customers. It was said to have been the only belt driven saw in the area. In June of 1936, Harry Blair Sr. was hired as manager of the five employee operation. Building towards the future, Harry Sr. hired his son Harry Jr. as a bookkeeper and assistant manager in 1948, this ensured progress in the millwork and building material side of the business.
At this time Niece Lumber operated out of a small office, approximately 300 square feet, on the south side of Elm Street. As the company grew, it was apparent that a new office and hardware store complex was needed. In 1960 a Georgian style brick office front was constructed, complete with showroom and hardware store. With renovations throughout the years our kitchen and bath, hardware areas, and office complex now cover 10,000 square feet. As a whole our facility, including state of the art warehouse facilities now encompass three city blocks.
Harry Blair Sr., along with wife Mary and Harry Blair Jr. purchased the company from Chester Niece in 1966. Thomas Blair, the younger brother soon joined the family in the sales field. Not long after Tom started with the company, Harry Sr. became incapacitated and retired selling the company to Harry Jr. and Tom. Tom worked with Harry as a partner until 1985 at which time he retired and Harry became sole owner.
Harry worked the next nine years with a young but experienced staff which included his son Tim Blair, daughter Jeanne Blair and son-in-law Bruce Currie. The trio became the new owners in 1994 on Harry’s decision to retire to Long Beach Island with his high school sweetheart and wife of 45 years Rose Blair.
In 1989 the company purchased the adjacent Allen’s Oil facility and converted it for use in the lumber and special order business. Currently our site has three structures on it, loaded to capacity with building materials.
1994 was an eventful year that brought many changes and challenges to the company. May 25th after a heavy lightning storm, 25,000 square feet of valuable warehouse space was engulfed in flames. Inventory and structure loss totaled over two million dollars. Luckily Chief Ron Tillet Jr. and his Columbia Fire Company we're on a nearby corner when the blaze shot through the roof. Although the fire burned into the early morning hours, the quick response of the local fire departments saved our neighbors homes. There were 27 fire departments and over 300 men and women dispatched to control the blaze, many of these firemen were company personnel. And believe it or not, we were open the next day!
After a torrential snowfall in the winter of 1996 Niece Lumber again lost another valuable building to a roof collapse. Again our employees shoveled us out, and started rebuilding another new warehouse facility.
Niece Lumber presently employs 33 dedicated employees. We are and always will be committed to serving our customers with high quality materials, first rate services, and an industry leading sales and management team.
This history is dedicated to the late Harry Blair Jr. Harry was our father, grandfather, boss and most importantly a friend who would do anything for you. In addition to Harry Blair Jr., this history is dedicated in the memory of Tim Blair, Harry's son and former co-owner, who passed away in January 2012
For more information on what Niece Lumber can do for you please contact us at (609) 397-1200.