Waterville-based Ware-Butler Building Supply and its parent company, Pleasant River Lumber Co., are growing after various recent transactions. It’s no secret as to why, seeing lumber prices have skyrocketed nearly 250% over the last year or so, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
A $6 million, two-phase investment in their Jackman facility is one of the highlights among major investments the company is making across Maine over the next few years.
“Our company has mills, trucking and logging and then we’ve got the retail side we’re growing very quickly,” Pleasant River Lumber co-founder Jason Brochu said. “On the mill side, we always have an investment mentality and the timing of the investments have to do with the markets.”
Pleasant River owns and operates lumber manufacturing mills in the towns of Dover-Foxcroft, Jackman, Enfield, Hancock and Sanford. They specialize in spruce/fir farming lumber and eastern white pine boards. Dover-Foxcroft is home to the company’s central offices, but each mill has its own administrative facility.
The Jackman facility — known as the Moose River Lumber Co. — will see the amount of material passing through their systems increase by 20% as a result of the investment, company officials say.
The Dover-Foxcroft facility is getting $1.5 million in upgrades to be completed this spring. Opened in late 2020, the Enfield facility will see a $10 million investment over the course of three years. There is $7.5 million going into Sanford’s Pleasant River Pine which processes the white pine.
Investing in the mills raises the company to compete at a global level, according to its co-founder. The majority of Pleasant River Lumber Co.’s wholesale business sends its products out of the state, but the retail business helps the company connect with Mainers.
While some mills have closed or failed, Brochu believes making the investments will keep the company thriving.
“We like to capitalize on and make investments long-term,” Brochu said. “Our mills have the ability to grow and there’s a lot of wood cut in Maine. There’s a sustainable situation throughout Maine.”
The company contracts with all the major land owners for logging. It has its own small logging business, but only accounts for 1% of what they buy.
Founded in 1925, the retail-oriented Ware-Butler will be acquiring Gorham-based Phiney Lumber, Mexico-based Puliia Lumber and Kingfield-based Jordan Lumber. Woodsmith’s Manufacturing in Oakland is also in the process of being acquired by the company.
Established in 1998, Woodsmith’s Manufacturing is set to join the Ware-Butler roster in mid-May. The former owner John Templin will remain with the custom cabinet manufacturing company as its general manager.
In addition to the mills and newly acquired businesses, Pleasant River Lumber Co. through Ware-Butler, also owns Moosehead Cedar Log Homes in Greenville, Chaffee Transport in Clinton, and two Enfield-based businesses, Quality Saw Sales and Service and A&A logging. On the retail end, the Ware-Butler location is the flagship property. They are currently renting an office on North Street in Waterville, but are in the process of buying a space adjacent to the property.
“We have always been wholesale which has created a situation where most of our lumber leaves the state,” Brochu said. “One of our big interests was to be able to move more of our product in the state and be more connected with the end user.”
With all of the upgrades and acquisitions, Pleasant River will have 568 Maine-based employees. Brochu and his brother, Chris, take pride in growing their business close to their home town of Stratton.
“We’re born and raised in Maine and there’s a tremendous amount of pride in everything that we’re doing,” Brochu said. “Pride is a huge factor for us. We love Maine.”