BATAVIA — Genesee Lumber’s recognition as the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year was built over time.
The Harrower family, which has owned the business for not quite 100 years, is in its fourth generation of running Genesee Lumber.
“My grandfather, Harold, bought it in 1928. He owned it until his death in 1963, at which time, my father, Bob, who had worked there during his childhood and worked with my grandfather, bought it from the estate in 1963,” said Genesee Lumber President John Harrower. “He sold the business to me in 1994.”
John Harrower and his wife, Leslie, who is vice president of the company, preside over a business that will receive the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year Award for 2018 when the county Chamber has its annual dinner at 5:30 p.m. March 2 at Quality Inn Suites, 8250 Clifton Park. The co-masters of ceremonies will be Dan Fischer of WBTA and Jay Gsell, county manager.
“We’re very honored and humbled by being the winners of the Business of the Year in Genesee County. There’s a lot of good businesses in Genesee County who are deserving of this award,” John Harrower said. “I guess with 91 years under our belt, it was our turn. We’re very excited about the upcoming event and certainly appreciate the support of the community over the years ...”
The Harrowers have been joined at Genesee Lumber, over the last few years, by their sons, Michael, 28, a general manager, and Eric, 26, an associate,
“The boys are excited. We are excited. It’s a fun evening, so we’re looking forward to sharing it with everyone at our place that’s helped make it happen,” John said.
Michael Harrower said, “Framing lumber, dimensional lumber and plywood to build houses accounts for a lot of our sales. We do windows, indoors, trim, roofing, siding ... we’ve got it all — houses, additions, renovations, anything that requires building materials.”
John Harrower said the company, whose services include just about anything except for electrical and plumbing, was recently awarded a contract to supply lumber and plywood for the building of a four-story Fairfield Inn at 4333 Federal Dr.
“We did the Batavia Downs hotel a couple of years ago. Those are projects we bid on as they come up,” said John Harrower.
Asked when Genesee Lumber found out it had won the Business of the Year Award, John Harrower recalled a visit from Genesee County Chamber President Tom Turnbull and Director of Member Relations and Special Events Kelly Bermingham.
“It probably would have been in December. We were told we’d been nominated. They came in to see us and asked us if we would accept,” John said. “A lot of our friends in the community have reached out and congratulated us.”
John Harrower said he started working at Genesee Lumber as a youth and began full-time after college in 1983. Leslie joined the business in 1987.
“Leslie and I owned and operated it on our own since 1991 and still do today. Michael joined us in 2015 as fourth-generation. Eric joined the family business one year ago,” he said.
Michael Harrower said he started working in the yard at Genesee Lumber and then drove trucks, making deliveries, cleaning, whatever was required.
“Really, at the end of the day, we do whatever it takes. We work as a team to service our customers,” he said.
Of the Business of the Year Award, Michael said, “It’s always nice to be recognized for positive reasons. We come to work hard every day and service our customers and our community and it’s nice to be recognized for that.”
“All our employees — we have extended the invitation (to the awards dinner) to them and their spouses. We won the award as a team and we’ll be enjoying the dinner as a team.”
Among the recent changes at Genesee Lumber is the warehouse the company built last summer for the restoration of doors and windows, and millwork, Michael said.
“It’s maybe 9,000 square feet. It’s been on the long-term capital plan for some time. We finally got it done. We’d been renting off-site for some years. It was time to get our own place.”
John Harrower said, “It’s something Leslie and I wanted to do for the growth and continued success of the company. We were happy to make an investment in the business and get off of renting a warehouse. We’d rented the warehouse for five or six years.”
While it has done business in Genesee County since 1928, Genesee Lumber has expanded to counties including Erie and Monroe.
“We’ve got 13 trucks for delivery services and 10 forklifts,” John Harrower said. “Our customers are primarily contractors. We are a retail store. I would say 70 percent of our business is contractor-related. The rest are do-it-yourselfers — DIY.
“We have a lot of experience at Genesee Lumber. I figured we’ve got about 120 years of outside sales experience there and if I add the people who are in the yard, the people at the counter, we’re well over 250 years of experience,” he said.
Michael Harrower said the business still gets customers who were customers when his dad began working there.
Despite being established in Genesee County for nearly 100 years, Genesee Lumber keeps an eye on the future as well.
It is located at 76 Franklin Street in Batavia, is open Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m . and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and may be reached at (585) 343-0777.
Genesee Lumber has updates on products and services on its website (geneseelumber.com and its Facebook page (facebook.com/geneseelumbercompany).
“Products are always evolving and changing, so we ;have to adapt (to) the latest trends, quicker ways to get things done, continue to improve our equipment to maintain speed and make sure our product is getting to the customer on time,” said Michael Harrower.