“To survive over 125 years, the customer always comes first”
Thomas & Proetz Commission Co. was founded in 1896 to sell lumber products on commission from a downtown office in St. Louis. In 1900, the name was changed to Thomas & Proetz Lumber Company. In 1903 it expanded into an office and lumber yard at 3400 Hall Street in north St. Louis. Over the years other companies, particularly sawmills like Calion Lumber Company, were formed with Thomas & Proetz selling their production on commission. Calion Lumber Co., established in 1904, is the only other company remaining.
Thomas & Proetz Lumber Co. was primarily a sales operation and lumber distribution yard from its beginning until the late 1960’s. Nearly all of Calion’s production was sold by Thomas & Proetz until the 1950’s when Calion began diversifying and became more independent. By the mid 1970’s, Calion and Thomas & Proetz were totally independent of each other. Therefore Thomas & Proetz sought new business and built its first dry kiln in St. Louis in 1968. With space for further expansion needed a 20 acre site was purchased in nearby Nashville, Illinois. Another yard with dry kilns and a planer was opened there in 1977.
As the distribution yard business diminished into 2008, the need for a new business direction became more apparent. Thomas & Proetz then focused into manufacturing semi-finished millwork products, utilizing its hardwood resources. Facilities for ripping and moulder manufacturing of hardwood lumber were added in St. Louis to meet these new products. In 2013 further diversification to exporting was researched. Since Nashville was close to the “Port of St. Louis” container terminal, exporting hardwood, primarily red oak, to China and elsewhere, was another opportunity. This entailed adding an export inspection and tally station with a certified package scale.
As time progressed, it became apparent that the Nashville yard location was the proper site for continued expansion and enabled better quality and efficiency throughout production. Therefore in the spring of 2014, the St. Louis distribution yard was closed. In order to continue and increase S4S and semi-finished production, all lumber and manufacturing equipment in St. Louis was moved to Nashville. The St. Louis office continues to be the center for sales, accounting and administrative operations.
“Although we have adapted as the market has evolved over the last 125 plus years, our primary goal remains the same, TO PROVIDE QUALITY AND SERVICE TO OUR CUSTOMERS. We are particularly proud of the fact that we maintain long term relationships with our customers, suppliers and employees.” E.R. (Ted) Thomas, Jr., president.
The Evolution of Thomas & Proetz
- Established 1896
- Early 1900’s to the 1950’s – St. Louis distribution yard and commission sales of lumber, blocking and timbers from sawmills, including the production of Calion Lumber Company.
- 1950’s – Concentrated sales into the Midwest and local distribution outlets.
- 1960 to middle 1970’s – Dry kilns added to the St. Louis yard with a capacity of 120,000 board feet, enabling full truckload shipments from the yard to outside areas.
- 1977 – Nashville, Illinois yard is established on new 20 acre site. Two dry kilns included, increasing overall capacity to 240,000 board feet. A planer was added shortly thereafter.
- 1985 – Two additional dry kilns were added at Nashville, expanding total kiln capacity to 380,000 board feet. This enabled shipments to be made for rail and container business to the west coast.
- 1999 – Another two new kilns were added at Nashville, replacing the St. Louis kiln capacity that was discontinued.
- 2001 – A moulder and rip saw was added to the St. Louis yard, so that facility could expand into mouldings, S4S and other related hardwood millwork.
- 2012 – Adapting to changing distribution within the hardwood’s industry, all lumber and production machinery is re-located to Nashville, Illinois to improve overall productivity and efficiency.
- 2013 – Export opportunities resulted in an export station at Nashville. Export sales top $1,000,000 in the first year.
- 2014 – As a result of diminished distribution activity in the St. Louis area, the St. Louis distribution yard is closed. All lumber and manufacturing equipment is relocated to Nashville, Illinois.
- 2016 – Thomas & Proetz hardwood S4S tops 7,000,000 lineal feet
- 2017 – Ripping capacity is doubled by converting two obsolete kilns for production space. Ongoing investments in production capacity will enable reaching an annual goal of at least 10,000,000 lineal feet. The new web site is launched.
- 2018 – Successfully introduced Stile & Rail Ready-to-Cut Profiles to the Thomas & Proetz product offerings.
- 2020 – The pandemic failed to negatively impact Thomas & Proetz. Our S4S and Moulder Ready Blank products experienced unprecedented growth. Strategic planning helped us overcome the challenges of 2020. Expanded capacity to navigate market demands expected in 2021.
- 2021 – Thomas & Proetz proudly celebrates over 125 years in business through four generations of the Thomas family. The Covid pandemic continues to constrain the economy with raw lumber costs skyrocketing to historic highs. Looking towards the future, Thomas & Proetz initiates plans to add a second moulder & dust collection system to the Nashville, IL facility.
- 2022 – The Covid pandemic still lingers as raw lumber pricing doubles in cost from 2020! Our second moulder operation goes live on March 1st. Millwork capacity vastly improves “on time” performance, allowing for future growth in this expanding segment of business. By mid-2022, management decides to expand S4S millwork with a 3rd moulder production line at Calion Lumber Company in Arkansas. As the Covid pandemic finally draws down to a manageable level, raw lumber costs rapidly decline to post 2020 levels.
- 2023 – In the Spring, our third S4S moulder operation at Calion Lumber Company begins production. This significantly increases S4S capacity; expanding our ability to reach new markets while continuing to serve the growth requirments within our existing customer base.
Have any questions about Thomas & Proetz, our products or services? You can call our headquarters or a T&P hardwoods expert for your area. If you prefer, you can also submit your inquiry from our online form. Click HERE for contact information and the online form.