Wood Purchasing News


Feature Story


PJ Lumber’s owners Joe Kelly and Fred Wilson
PJ LUMBER CO. Evolves With Customer Base

By Paul Miller Jr.

Prichard, Ala.- PJ Lumber Company, based here, is a manufacturer and exporter of American Hardwood lumber and related wood products specializing in White Oak, Ash and Red Oak. The company continues to innovate and update equipment and services to provide quality products to customers worldwide.

Owned by Joe Kelly and Fred Wilson, the firm was established in 1977 to supply quality American Hardwood to various export markets around the world. “While we are interested in developing business in all areas, including the U.S., our species mix and many of our specialty products are best suited for markets outside the U.S. While we offer a lot of traditional random width and length material, we’re almost two different companies inside one building,” Wilson explained. “We had traditional lumber production on one side and then we do a lot of specialty products, like fixed width and ripped to width material on the other side.” Wilson also said what originally started out as specialty products for specific customers, ended up somewhat becoming PJ Lumber’s niche.

The company’s frame saw department is shown here.
Regarding the type of “nice” products offered, he explained, “We produce a range of ripped to width strips and planks, particularly in White Oak, ranging from 3” up to 12” in both FAS and Premium Character qualities. Additionally we also develop wide specifications; 10-inch and wider, in White Oak 4/4 through 8/4, FAS quality. Further we have an increasing number of customers to whom we supply specified lengths in both ripped to width and random width stock.”

PJ Lumber Co. has evolved and upgraded processing equipment and specifications in response to the ever-changing markets of their customers and the lumber products industry. As Wilson pointed out, most, if not all, of the specialty products the firm now produces began as a response to a specific need a customer had. “As their needs have changed, we have tried to modify our operations to accommodate them. For example, we’ve had a 25-year relationship with a particular flooring manufacturer to whom we began supplying solid, ripped to width White Oak planks for their engineered flooring production. Over the years this client wanted to discontinue the lumber processing portion of their operation and focus solely on flooring production. To accommodate their need we purchased several European frame saws and began production of sawn top layer for their flooring production. As a result of responding to this client we have also been able to develop business with other engineered flooring producers who use similar materials.

To accommodate their customers’ needs PJ Lumber Co. purchased several European frame saws and began production of sawn top layer for their flooring production.
PJ Lumber products are shipped throughout Northern Europe, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean areas of Spain, Italy and Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa as well as Far Eastern markets of China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Our current marketing mix averages about 75 percent into various export markets and about 25 percent to domestic clients.

PJ Lumber employs approximately 120 workers, 11 of which are qualified lumber inspectors. The firm maintains a kiln-dried inventory of about 4,000,000 board feet and markets 35,000,000 board feet annually. When asked for the key factors in the company’s successful history, Wilson said, “There are several factors involved. First and foremost we have been fortunate to have a good, loyal customer base that we have worked with for many years. We greatly appreciate these long-term relationships. Another key factor is the hard work of all our employees. We have been very blessed to have a group of quality men and ladies work for us over the years and we certainly could not have grown without their contribution. Finally we have been fortunate to have a number of long term supplying mills that have worked with us over the years as our business has developed. These three components are critical factors in our business.

(Left to right): Mark Johnson and Tony Green are PJ Lumber’s inspection/quality supervisors.
When asked about the future Kelly said, “We have seen a tremendous amount of change over the past 2 years both on the supply side here as well as changes within our customer base. Everyone is working hard to survive under the current worldwide economic conditions but we are confident that we will prevail. We are very fortunate to have several young men in key positions here that represent the next generation for PJ. My two sons Jeff and Jon and my nephew Russell began working here during their high school years and now that they have finished school are here full time learning the operation of the business. They are assisted by Tony Green and Mark Johnson as inspector supervisors, Brian Hardy who manages our ripping lines, Mike Langlitz who handles all of our administration and logistics and Randy Patterson who is responsible for all shipping. They are assisted by Louise Bacon, accounting manager and Joy Steiner who manages all documentation. As owners Fred and I greatly appreciate the efforts of all members of the PJ team as well as the support of each and every customer.

PJ maintains a European sales office operated by Ignacio Olavide. Based in Holland Olavide covers all of Europe and the Mediterranean and has been with the company over 15 years. “We are fortunate to have someone of Ignacio’s knowledge and experience in the trade and greatly appreciate this dedication,” stated Wilson. Kelly concluded, “With all of us working together, focused on providing a consistent quality product coupled with our valued relationships with customers who have supported us over the past 33 years we look forward to the future.”

(Left to right): Russell Kelly is the firm’s frame saw manager and Jon Kelly is salesman for the Far East territory.
PJ Lumber Co. is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Association, Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc., and the Southwest Lumbermen’s Club.

Brian Hardy, PJ Lumber Co.’s rip line manager.

An example of the firm’s sawn White Oak top layers is shown here.

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