That legacy came to an end when the nearly 103-year-old business was sold in December, after its previous owners considered closing it and turning it into a warehouse.
The lumberyard and hardware store at 100 E St. officially reopened Jan. 10 under new owner Ramon Zavala Ramirez, with the new moniker Patterson Lumber, but the faces of staff members and its daily operations should all be familiar to customers.
“I couldn’t see this city going without a lumberyard,” said manager Harry Felix, who had worked five years at Yancey Lumber and serves as spokesman for the new owner.
Several residents expressed concern about the lumberyard’s potential closure, according to Felix, who was worried about what would happen to the seven people who work there. He helped forge a purchase deal with Ramirez, an agribusiness foreman who owns rental properties that Felix manages.
Yancey Lumber’s last day of business in Patterson was Dec. 28, and the lumberyard legally changed hands Jan. 8.
Kern Hunewill, who co-owns and operates Yancey Lumber with seven members of the Yancey family, was reserved about the reasons for relinquishing the Patterson store. The Newman lumberyard remains open.
“It just seemed it was time,” he said.
Tom Yancey, one of the co-owners, noted that the family at one time had five lumberyards in Newman, Patterson, Westley, Crows Landing and Gustine. All but the first two closed over the years, he said.
He said it became increasingly difficult to make the Patterson facility profitable.
“We had a hard time keeping that yard going, so it seemed the best thing to do would be to focus on Newman,” Yancey said.
Yancey’s great-grandfather, Thomas G. Yancey, started the company in 1888 in the former town of Hills Ferry, east of the city of Newman along the San Joaquin River. But that lumberyard flooded regularly, prompting the company’s founder to build another in Newman and to eventually expand the business into other communities.
All of the yards were built along railroad tracks, allowing lumber to be delivered by train rather than by barge, he said.
“My great-grandfather was really successful in dealing with the railroads and acquiring property,” Yancey said.
Patricia Poot, the bookkeeper for the local lumberyard who has worked there off and on since 1989, said there are no hard feelings.
She said she was sad to see a longtime business change hands, but she conceded that it was probably for the best.
Looking ahead, Patterson Lumber plans to gradually modernize some of its operations, many of which have hardly changed since the lumberyard opened.
The company still uses handwritten invoices and has a ledger book with entries from 1913.
“We do everything manually,” Poot said. “We only got a cash register a few years ago.”
The company’s annually inspected scales, used for weighing nails and lumber, have seals from the Stanislaus County Department of Agriculture and Weights and Measures dating back to the 1920s.
The company also maintains local rainfall data dating to 1931. Patterson Lumber will continue collecting that information, Poot said.
She said that many of the homes in Patterson were built with Yancey lumber, and owners of older homes in town occasionally stop by to display aged planks of wood emblazoned with the Yancey stamp.
The local lumberyard’s clients include lifelong residents and farmers, as well as contractors and companies in West Patterson Business Park, such as GEA Westfalia and distribution centers for W.W. Grainger and CVS.
Yancey also provided all the lumber used to assemble the Tough Mudder extreme obstacle challenge in Diablo Grande in late September, an event that attracted more than 10,000 entrants.
“We have our faithful, loyal people who come here for everything,” Poot said.
The Yancey name has been scrubbed off some signs at the lumberyard, and Felix plans to put up new signs announcing the name change soon.
But if the current trend continues, the company should have no problem attracting customers.
“The first day was real busy, and we’ve been swamped ever since,” Felix said.
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or jonathan@patterson