North Avenue site no longer home to popular lumberyard

When Valley Lumber closed this month, it marked the end of a business that thrived for more than half a century on North Avenue and survived multiple changes in the industry.

Founded as Denning Lumber in the 1930s, the store at 432 North Ave. was well-known around western Colorado and eastern Utah to construction companies and homeowners, said Bill Lee, who worked for 30 years at the store.

It also was a good place to work, Lee said, explaining how it was that he spent three decades working there.

Lee and two other longtime employees, Randy Romkee, also a 30-year employee, and Rick Herald, who worked there for 19 years, said the business thrived on customer relations in ways that modern, big-box stores can’t duplicate.

“Every department had a lead,” an employee who knew the inventory and could help customers individually, Lee said.

“Back then, they really did it.”

Denning Lumber fended off plenty of competition over the years, including one of the earliest versions of big-box stores, Pay N Pak, which had a location in the Eastgate Shopping Center to the east on North Avenue.

Owner Bob Denning put together a list of popular items and purchased them at the competitor, then compared the cost to his own prices so he could tell customers his business would save them more than the discounter, Lee said.

Denning Lumber once accepted a return item with a Pay N Pak price sticker, Lee said. It made sense because Denning carried the same item, he said.

Denning Lumber was more than a hardware and lumber business and was known also for its housewares section, Lee said.

The business also was popular with employees.

Herald, a driver, was directed to Denning Lumber from the Veterans Administration, and he stayed there for 19 years.

“It was a good place to work,” he said.

“It was a good atmosphere for a long time,” Romkee said.

Valley Lumber’s stock of lumber was sent to other Valley outlets in Rifle and Gypsum.

Valley Lumber took over the store after it was operated for several years by BMC West, a subsidiary of Boise Cascade, which purchased the business from Denning.

Lee, Herald and Romkee all were laid off about a year ago by Valley.

Valley Lumber’s closure was the second closing of a major Grand Junction lumberyard in the past 12 months.

Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber Co., formerly Burkey Lumber Co. and Brookhart’s Lumber Co., at 515 S. Seventh St., closed in late January 2009.


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