Softwood Forest Products Buyer


Feature Story


(Back row) (L to R): Joel Gass; Marshall Wood; Ernie Clark; Wayne Carlisle 
(Front Row) (L to R): Marshall Wood II; Doll Swindle; and Trent Freeman.
MARS HILL HARDWOODS—Success By Building Relationships

By Gary Milller

Waynesboro, Miss.—Mars Hill Hardwoods, a wholesale lumber company located here, supplies markets 1x4 through 2x12 Spruce-Pine-Fir and mostly 4/4 through 8/4 hardwoods to its customers located throughout North America. The operation also sells some industrial plywood’s in 4x8 sheets and southern yellow pine cut stock to some of its customers as well. Established as a hardwood supplier in 2000 by president/owner, Ernie Clark, the firm continues to thrive and serve its present customers well.

An Ole Miss graduate, Clark can account for many years of experience in the lumber industry.  He described his grandfather, M.S. Gatlin, who owned a Southern Yellow Pine sawmill dating back to the 1940s, as a ‘local legend.’

After a short stint on an off-shore drilling rig and owning his own small engine repair business, Clark went to Ole Miss and then worked for a family-owned retail lumberyard in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. Later, in 1993 he was employed by a wholesale lumber company selling hardwoods before opening his own wholesale business in 2000.

Marshall Wood, salesman, Mars Hill Hardwoods.
Mars Hill Hardwoods buys the majority of its Softwood and hardwood lumber in the southeastern states but also purchases some Spruce-Pine-Fir from Canada. “We have purchased Cypress lumber for a customer from as far away as Guatemala,” Clark said. “We specialize in Southern Yellow Pine cut stock and hardwood lumber and we also supply cants, deck boards, fence boards, and standard 1x4’s up to 2x12’s.”

The company has a broad customer base that includes the manufactures of wooden cabinets, flooring, furniture, boxes, crates, pallets as well as distribution yards, independent retail building supply stores and lumber remanufacturers.

Mars Hill recently became Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain-of-custody certified. “That is an area that we’re excited about,” Clark explained. With my company now having this certification in place we have an opportunity to source and sell reclaimed hardwood material like reclaimed FSC-certified oak flooring. This is a rustic product that we will have manufactured and will be offered in 3/4x5-inch.” Most of Mars Hill’s forest product deliveries are made by contract truck but some products are shipped in containers by rail.

Ernie Clark, owner and CEO, Mars Hill Hardwoods.
Clark attributes the success of his wood operation to having good working relationships with both his lumber suppliers and clients. He explained, “With good forest product suppliers that have modern and efficient manufacturing equipment and know what they’re doing we always have a good product to offer our customers and those in need of Softwood and hardwood lumber. We have long-term relationships with people we know very well, they know us and like doing business with us. We’re proud of the way we handle our accounts. Paying quickly is a large concern to our suppliers and we certainly pay promptly because we’re very well capitalized. We discount all invoices.”

Including Clark, the company has five seasoned traders: Trent Freeman, Wayne Carlisle, Joel Gass and Marshall Wood. “Marshall Wood, II came on board very recently and is going through the information overload phase. Next phase will be Lumberitis. People in the industry will understand that terminology,” Clark said.

Trent Freeman also has a family-oriented background in the forest products industry. “I was raised selling logging equipment for the family business,” he explained. After spending many summers working for his father’s logging equipment company, Freeman began as a sales representative selling lumber out of his home. “As an independent agent I represented several hardwood sawmills,” he said.

Wayne Carlisle, salesman, Mars Hill Hardwoods
With 14 years experience Freeman currently markets pallet parts for Mars Hill, Inc. “Basically I work inventory, in that I buy hardwood dimension and have it delivered to a lumber remanufacturing plant our firm works with closely,” said Freeman. “Then this factory cuts the dimensional lumber into pallet parts and I sell this material to pallet manufacturers. Many of my pallet manufacturing customers sell their pallets to retail chain giants such as Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Winn-Dixie and Kroger.”

Freeman also purchases 2x8-2x12, S4S, and kiln-dried Southern Yellow Pine. Noting the present poor economic conditions that the U.S. is experiencing, Freeman said selling pallet parts into the pallet industry is a good market for him and his company. “In a slow economy business is often good in the pallet industry. Pallets move the world. Anything coming in or going from the United States is on a wooden pallet or skid.”

Some might consider Wayne Carlisle a “jack of all trades.” He began in the forest products industry working alongside his father hauling logs, lumber, chips and other wood products. After 20 years he decided to build his own mechanic shop, which he ran for about six years. Later in his working career he purchased a restaurant, which he currently leases. While running his restaurant, Carlisle also began as a car salesman for a Ford dealer. An interesting side note, Carlisle said his employment with Mars Hill came about spontaneously. “I sold Trent’s father-in-law a new Ford truck and after multiple trips to Mars Hill trying to sell Trent a new truck, Ernie called me up and asked if I’d like to try my hand at selling lumber and I’ve been here ever since.”

Marshall Wood II, salesman, Mars Hill Hardwoods.
Carlisle markets Eastern White Pine as well as Appalachian and Southern hardwoods to his customers located mostly in the northeastern region of the country.

Also with a diverse background, Joel Gass first began in the industry as a lumberyard foreman for Meredith Lumber Co. in Pensacola, Fla. Later he would move to San Jose, Costa Rica where he was a Missionary and taught all subjects as a fourth grade elementary school teacher. Shortly after meeting his wife who was also a Missionary in Costa Rica, the couple returned to the states. Gass began finishing his education at the University of Southern Mississippi, located in Hattiesburg, Miss. In the meantime he began working for Ernie Clark’s family, running a retail lumberyard called M.S. Gatlin Building Supply located in Waynesboro, Miss. Returning to education after receiving his degree he taught tenth and eleventh grade History at Wayne County High School and Clark offered him a job. Today, Gass buys and sells hardwood blocking, lower grade lumber, furniture frame stock, cants and upper grade lumber.

Marshall Wood, a University of Southern Mississippi graduate and two-term former mayor of the city of Waynesboro, has been a part of Mars Hill Hardwoods since the company’s inception.

After working on his family farm raising cattle for many years, Wood became a certified public accountant (CPA). “It was during my tenure as Mayor that Mars Hill was established and I came onboard,” he said. “I got started in 2000 and I didn’t know a thing about lumber, but I have a love for people. I consider myself service oriented and when I got involved it gravitated toward the flooring industry.

“We are involved in everything we do from the ground up. We do our own invoicing and as Ernie often says, we pride ourselves on having excellent relationships with both our customers and lumber suppliers. They’re both equally important and they’ve each got their own set of unique concerns. We protect everybody’s interest thereby protecting and serving ours as well.”

Trent Freeman, salesman, Mars Hill Hardwoods.
Wood buys and sells hardwoods in the Southeast region. He began working with Mars Hill while serving as Mayor. Comically he explained how during his term in office, citizens of Waynesboro would come into Mars Hill’s office. “We had to lock the doors. People were trying to get in during the course of the day with complaints about their garbage not being collected or how a pothole in the road needed to be fixed. We eventually had to post a sign outside on the window at our wholesale lumber business that said, ‘No City Business Conducted at Mars Hill’,” he laughed.

Looking ahead Ernie Clark said Mars Hill Hardwoods is changing with the economy. “My best investment has always been in my own company. I don’t put any money in the stock market. I put it into my own firm and that’s why we’re a well capitalized Softwood and hardwood lumber business.”

In closing Clark said, “We’re interested in getting into the export market. If the right person were to come along with expertise in that area I would hire him and we would pursue that market. In fact I’m always looking for good sales people whether they market forest products in the domestic market and/or the overseas I’m always looking to build good relationships with people and I’m open to innovative ideas from others to help my operation grow.

For more information about Mars Hill Hardwoods visit or contact 866-629-9089.


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