Fayette, Mo.—The people at Missouri-Pacific Lumber Co. (MOPAC), located here, have been producing American Black Walnut, Red and White Oak, Soft Maple and other Hardwoods for over half of a century.
While Missouri-Pacific was established in 1980, the family operation began in 1935. “My grandfather, ‘Louie’ Pescaglia started in the lumber business with a small sawmill that cut pallet material. My dad ‘Jim’ Pescaglia, Sr., joined him in 1960 and led the company into a new direction of furniture grade lumber. From there they grew into a larger mill in Pekin, Ill., which was an automatic versus the manual mill they had. Dry kilns were installed and the evolution of the company really began,” said company President Bucky Pescaglia.
Around 1969 his uncle, Jerry, joined the family business and the operation began cutting “basically every specie in the woods,” Bucky Pescaglia explained. “We had 16 or 18 different species that we sawed as our family business grew. Once Jerry’s son Ryan and I entered the business, we wanted to expand. We wanted to find something to specialize in so that we could obtain a ‘niche’ market. We knew that Missouri had more Walnut than any other state, so that became our focus. We started searching for a place to start a mill in Missouri.”
Standing in front of 4/4 10-inch and wider FAS and F1F Walnut are Grafton Cook III, Sales Manager and Bucky Pescaglia, President.
Jim and Bucky Pescaglia made a commitment to move from their family’s home state of Illinois into Missouri. “I graduated from the National Hardwood Lumber Association Inspection School in 1980,” he explained. “While I was there, my dad made the decision to purchase the mill in Missouri and so basically when I graduated I went to Missouri instead of Illinois and it became my home.”
The family continued to grow the business in Missouri by updating the mill to a band saw in 1986. “That move increased our production and made us more efficient,” he said. “We started on five acres in New Franklin, Mo., and developed it into a 36-acre facility.”
In 1993 that sawmill was devastated by a record setting flood. “We had 14 feet of water in our mill for 30 days and we lost about a third of our inventory. So we decided to get out of the river bottom and we relocated here in Fayette,” said Pescaglia.
On 50 acres of flat ground they designed the new mill with the future in mind. “Our flow of material is wonderful here. We have concrete roads that lead us everywhere, which makes handling material so much more efficient. To be able to build a mill from the ground up was a dream come true for my dad and Jerry. Installing state-of-the-art technology secured our business for the future. We now operate a McDonough bandmill, and an American Wood Dryers’ steamer. We have eight dry kilns, which provide a total capacity of 800,000 board feet. Our covered air drying capacity is 2 million board feet.”
“We had the unique opportunity to design everything from scratch with future growth in mind,” he continued. “We’ve grown in several areas since we started here and the important part is that we have the room to do it. It’s worked out really well.”
Johnny Agnew, Log Purchasing and Sales Manager has been with the company for 33 years. Agnew sells an average of 300,000-feet of high quality veneer logs each year to markets all over the world.
Pescaglia said MOPAC’s tag line, ‘specializing in Walnut,’ defines the company’s experience and education about the species. “We know the ins and outs of the Walnut business,” he explained. “We understand the grades from saw logs to veneer logs—we have a tremendous amount of experience. It isn’t something that we handle just when the market gets hot—it’s our mainstay.”
National Hardwood Lumber Association grade certified, Pescaglia said the company is proud to offer consistency to the customer. “Several people from customers to competitors look to us as an expert in the Walnut field. Ultimately we’ve had different associations and competitors that have said they use our Walnut as a comparison. The bottom line is we know how to handle our logs; we know how to saw the log to get the most value out of it. From beginning to end we know how to properly steam, air dry, kiln dry, and grade the product.
“Another advantage of specializing in Walnut is that there is a tremendous amount of Walnut spread out all over the Midwest and in the eastern states, but with each state and each region comes a little bit different color and quality and that’s another one of the things that we’ve pushed,” he continued. “Our reputation has been based on: you’re going to get consistent color; we’re going to buy all our trees, all of our logs from this area; and we’re not going to go into other regions that have mixed colors. The grade’s going to be the same, the thicknesses are going to be the same and the manufacturing process is the same. The color, which, again, is so important, the appearance grade manufacturer doesn’t want to make this beautiful piece of furniture and have it look like it has two different species in it, it has to be consistent.”
The company’s four lumber inspectors maintain the quality of the lumber that keeps them one of the only NHLA Grade Certified Walnut mills in the world. (Left to Right): Troy Williams, Frank Hook, head inspector, George Simmons, and Vince Pescaglia (Bucky’s youngest son).
Pescaglia said MOPAC protects the value of the resource by taking every measure to ensure the quality exceeds their customers’ expectations. “We wax all of our logs when they come in with products from U•C Coatings Corp. in Buffalo, N.Y. It helps to slow down the cracking and drying process. We want our logs to be as fresh as possible when we run them through our mill. We also cover them in the summertime with shade dry material that we put on top of the logs to keep them from drying out, which is also supplied by U•C Coatings Corp.
“It goes back to that philosophy that this is a premium product, you should handle it like it’s a premium product and that’s our philosophy with everything we’re doing, they’re not buying, again, just some run of the mill Hardwood, they are buying a premium product.
He continued, “When people buy Walnut, they expect to pay more for it so it should meet their expectations or exceed them. And that’s the way we try to handle everything we do; take care of it; take care of your logs, wax the ends, make sure a customer can use that board all the way to the end.”
MOPAC’s Walnut has gone into some fascinating applications. “We have supplied Walnut for the Rolls Royce interiors, which like Walnut is a high-end, prized product,” Pescaglia noted. “A Rolls Royce is not like a Ford—everybody doesn’t have one.”
Other product lines MOPAC has supplied include luxury Lear jets and massive yachts. “We had an order last year for two truckloads of 4/4 through 16/4 rift sawn Walnut to a company that was building a yacht. The 28,000 feet of Walnut went strictly into the trim parts of the yacht. The customer had no idea and was surprised to find that we had that much Walnut in inventory for his application.”
Pictured are 3rd and 4th generation family members Ryan Pescaglia, Vice-President and Tony Pescaglia, (Bucky’s oldest son) who both manage their 500,000-feet of dry kilns.
MOPAC currently has about 45 employees. Key personnel including Bucky Pescaglia are: Ryan Pescaglia, co-owner and vice president; Johnny Agnew, log purchasing and veneer log sales representative; Grafton Cook, sales manager; Lou Hart, sales representative; Scott Schrader, head sawyer; Tom Gatzemeyer, maintenance supervisor; Lori Kopp, logistics manager; and Linda Hayes, accounts payable.
Missouri-Pacific Lumber Company’s Hardwood lumber is available in a variety of thicknesses, including 4/4 through 12/4 in most species, and up to 16/4 in Soft Maple and Walnut and aromatic cedar, 4/4 through 10/4 in Sycamore, and 4/4 through 8/4 in Red and White Oak. In Red Oak and Walnut, the business does rift and quartered, and custom cuts 12-inch and wider Red Oak. Shipments are available in mixed loads, surfaced or straight line ripped to customer specifications and delivered throughout the United States and around the world.
The company also exports its lumber to over 30 countries including China, Italy, Germany, Japan, the Philippines, Great Britain, Mexico, Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland and Saudi Arabia.
In addition to lumber, Missouri-Pacific markets veneer logs in Walnut, Red and White Oak and Cherry.
Missouri-Pacific Lumber Co. is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Association, Missouri Forest Products Association, American Hardwood Export Council and the American Walnut Manufacturers Association.
Silver Leaf Soft Maple is being loaded into a kiln. Missouri-Pacific also carries Red and White Oak, Ash and aromatic cedar.