Wood Purchasing News


Feature Story


General Manager Frank Schnettler stands in front the new complex that will house sales and administrative offices.
HSS Survives Through The Years

By P.J. Costello

Soest, Germany—Holz–Schnettler Soest (HSS) was founded in 1915 by Bernard Schnettler, and subsequently taken over by his son, Wilhelm. The Allied bombing campaigns of 1945 nearly destroyed a number of German cities, many of which were burned to cinders. In that same year, the Schnettler family business could not avoid that same fate. Their company was burned to the ground. Wilhelm endured much more personal losses as well, losing four of his brothers, all killed in action at various places once controlled by Hitler’s Third Reich. We can be sure that the pain of those losses was no less for having served under the madman, and most probably, was even greater considering the absolute waste of humanity that very real conflict brought to us all, even today.

Wilhelm himself served in Africa under the infamous Rommell. But he lived to tell the tale and subsequently rebuilt a hugely successful family business. He did it by employing a set of personal qualities that included perseveran
Storage and drying facility for rare African species
ce, courage, vision, and intelligence. He had the necessary tools to become a winner, and do so while living in the midst of overwhelming elements of defeat. He passed those traits on to his son and grandson, Klaus and Frank, respectively, who are now the managing directors of HSS and are proudly responsible for one of the largest, most versatile, and successful wood importers/distributors in all of Europe. And proud they should be, as their business philosophy places emphasis on  “quality and reliability” as they actively seek to “identify and solve the problems of their customers”, and they truly practice that sound philosophy.

The Schnettler family owns a whopping 120,000 square meters (1.2 million square feet) of prime real estate in the medieval town of Soest. The property is divided into three sections, one of which is exclusively reserved for increasingly scarce African imports. One cannot walk the entire lot in less than 10 minutes. The main section across the street holds the sales and administrative offices, which includes a new office complex (currently under construction), and storage facilities for cut lumber, logs and veneer. The third section houses seven, 400 cubic meter kilns, two vacuum kilns, a huge storage yard for natural drying, climate controlled facilities and a luxurious apartment that resembles a ski chalet. Director of Marketing and twin
One of many side-loading forklifts that helps lighten the load for HSS workers.
sister to Frank, Stephanie Schnettler, resides there. 

The Schnettlers import approximately 13 million board feet per year from the Untied States. The cargo comes by sea to the northern port of Bremerhaven and then makes it way by truck to Soest. HSS clients order every size and thickness imaginable and FAS, Prime, Select and No. 1 and 2 Common are the qualities ordered, with the stronger emphasis on FAS. The species include: Alder (American Western Red Alder), Ash (American), Aspen, White Poplar (populus alba, canescens), Basswood (American Linden), Cherry (American Black), Elm (American Red), Gum (Sap gum, Red gum), Hickory, Maple (American Hard Maple, Sugar Maple, American Soft Maple), Oak (American Red - America), Oak (American White), Sassafras, Tulipwood, American Yellow Poplar and Walnut (American Black).

HSS also maintains storage facilities and a large stock of imported timber at the port of Bremerhaven. On average, as much as 75 containers can be found at the warehouse here on any given day. This allows them to more quickly accommodate their domestic clientele. The orders are sorted at the port and then delivered to their destinations, consistently on time. Containers are also shipped from Bremerhaven to Scandinavia, Asia, the United Kingdom, Southern Europe and Asia.

Of the hardwood products, square-edged, kiln-dried lumber accounts for the largest volume. Logs run a c
An order stands loaded and ready over obsolete rail tracks.
lose second, with the more important species being Black Cherry and Black Walnut. These are available freshly sawed to any size or dimension, and either air or kiln-dried. 

Softwoods are an important item in the HSS inventory as well. Some of their local customers demand edge-glued plywood, which is used for furniture production, packaging and in the construction industry. Others require large volumes of veneer, of which HSS can claim an inventory of over 100 different species. Laminates are also in high demand.

HSS activities require the full-time employment of 50 people, with the use of temporary help on an as-needed basis. They generally operate within a 40-hour week and are aided by a modern fleet of trucks and equipment. Not long ago, much of their inventory was shipped to and from the yard by train, so large is the volume. The trucks prove to be more cost effective and versatile, and now cast a shadow over the tracks of their predecessor as they wait to be loaded so many times per day. The trains, like the painful past they once represented, are gone forever. And the Schnettlers, like the Germany of today, deserve our admiration and respect…and friendship.  

We are not in the middle of a third world war. That notion is just ridiculous. We are faced with threats that h
This veneer hails from a forest more than 5000 years old.
ave global reach due to the vulnerability of a mostly free, global society. Winning in this present case will mean employing the same qualities that brought Holz-Schnettler the much-deserved success they enjoy today. The very same personal characteristics that allowed the Schnettler family to achieve success in business are identical to those that will win for us, today, long before World War III can begin.

A vacuum kiln is visible to the left of the marketing director’s home.

These two vacuum kilns help accommodate rush orders.

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