O’Neil Phenomenal Growth Since 1876 By Clare Adrian
O’Neil Lumber and Millwork’s headquarters are located in East St. Louis, Ill.
East St. Louis, Ill.—It takes a sizable operation, or maybe two, to service customers across two states. With a location on either side of the Mississippi River, one in St. Louis, Mo., and the other 9.5 miles away in East St. Louis, Ill., O’Neil Lumber and Millworks is supplying custom and regular size lumber, and custom milling services to their professional, commercial, residential and industrial clients that now span into metro east Illinois and the St. Louis metropolitan area, extending south to Jefferson and Lincoln counties, and west to St. Charles county.
The Missouri-side lumberyard is located in the residential southwest central area of St. Louis termed “Dogtown,” because it is on the south side of and therefore, “backyard to Forest Park,” one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Encompassing 1,293 acres, it is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City. The Illinois-side mill shop is situated three miles from the St. Louis Gateway Arch, and just across the Poplar Street Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River and connects the two states.
Kevin Gale, operating one of the company’s forklifts, is in charge of inventory and shipping at O’Neil.
At the inception of the business in 1876, the O’Neil family supplied lumber to the metropolitan St. Louis area from the St. Louis facility located at the corner of Eighth Street and Clark Avenue. Eventually, the company outgrew the first location and constructed buildings and rail spurs to relocate to the current East St. Louis millwork site. The family maintained a strong niche they had found in the commercial and industrial sectors of the building materials industry until the 60s when they sold out to a group of investors.
The company changed hands again before the current investors turned a then floundering business around when they took acquisition in 2000. Under the current management, with Dan Kazanas at the helm since 2001, the firm is experiencing phenomenal growth. Kazanas correlates the company’s growth pattern with continuity of service to regular customers.
“We have a controlled growth in that we do not forget who has been with us for many years and we need to make sure we can constantly service them before we grow so fast that we ignore the foundation of our customer base,” he stated.
Steve Stromeyer, shipping manager; Travis Linsman, inside sales; and Robert Taylor, store manager, are some of the employees that make the company thrive.
2001 marked the O’Neil Co.’s purchase of the current St. Louis location—then Forest Park Lumber, a builder-oriented lumberyard. The site is on a three-acre lot, while the East St. Louis mill shop is situated on a sprawling 10 acres. The synergy of the two locations broadened the types of customer services to include free delivery or storage of individually ordered lumber, to be delivered on an as needed basis. O’Neil is one of the few lumberyards in the area to offer boom truck services to have materials placed several levels high. The company provides blueprint take-offs and technical assistance regarding application of products in the marketplace.
Kazanas also explained that the Blue Tarp credit account they use “allows their technology to be used by customers to have internet access to their invoices within 24 hours to monitor their cost and what materials they are purchasing more efficiently than waiting for a hard copy to be delivered to the job site or mailed to the office.”
Two million board feet of SPF, Yellow Pine, Hem-Fir and Cedar per month are trucked or railed into either location as needed from mills in the Washington, British Columbia, Arkansas and Alabama
Untreated Yellow Pine dimension and lumber.
areas. In addition to the various species and grades of lumber O’Neil supplies, they stock plywood, engineered wood and other timber products, decking material, composite lumber, doors and windows, millwork, framing lumber, floor systems, both 2 X 10s and 2 X 12s, along with I-joists.
The mill shop capabilities include milling, manufacturing or remanufacturing, designs of high-end carpentry and construction, cabinetry and furniture design, manufacture and installation and project management. For precision trimming of materials, the mill shop is equipped with a 4-sided planer/moulder, as well as a precision grinder for profiling and re-grinding of profile knives, wood planers, edge sanders, panel saws, radial arm saws, cut-off saws, gang ripsaws, band saws, table saws and drill presses.
Renovations of various neighborhoods in the St. Louis area provide a great deal of business for the mill shop.
Overstock of Yellow Pine is kept under t-sheds.
“There may be an old crown moulding that’s been in a commercial building for fifty years and they need to match that profile,” Kazanas said. “So we cannot only match that profile but we can mill the work for them and deliver it to the job site with the rest of the materials.”
Between the two facilities, the company has acquired 16 trucks, two of which are boom trucks, and nine forklifts move materials within the yards.
Kazanas finds strength in the 35 employees of the company, who he said are very seasoned.
“We probably have 60-plus years of experience here. Our sales people have been in their industry an average of 10 or more years each. They focus on customer service and servicing the lumber,” he explained.
Kevin Gale, who has been with the company for 35 years, started out picking up material and now is in charge of shipping and inventory.
Treated lumber and Cedar is also kept under t-sheds at O’Neil Lumber and Millwork.
The company strives to make sure that with each delivery, customers receive the materials when they need them. He also said the company aims to keep prices competitive.
“I see the company continuing to be profitable and growing and providing future employment for current employees and additional ones, as long as they take care of each order one at a time,” Kazanas stated. “O’Neil’s is definitely not a ‘mom and pop’ shop but as big boxes enter the market there is still a niche for the independent lumberyard to service the professional contractor as we are doing.”