A Company Rich In Lumber History
Founded in 1948
Neiman Reed Lumber Co. is a division of Lumber City Corp. based in Chatsworth, California. It is a privately-owned, medium-sized company that, with its affiliates, employs over 600 people.
The company was founded by Robert M. Neiman and Robert L. Reed. The two company founders met in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, fighting in many battles in the South Pacific, including assaults at Gaudacanal, Kwajalein Atoll, Rio, Namir, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. Mr. Neiman rose to the rank of Colonel and Robert Reed was his tank battalion’s executive officer. It was during this period they developed a very close personal relationship and decided, that upon leaving the Marines, they would do well to go into business together. (Note: Their exploits are chronicled in a book co-authored by Robert Neiman titled Tanks on the Beaches: A Marine Tanker in the Pacific War.)
In April 1948, they formed the Neiman-Reed Lumber and Supply Co., and took over the site of Alert Lumber in Van Nuys, a rapidly growing San Fernando Valley suburb.
For most of the first fifteen years of the company’s operations, it was primarily in the wholesale lumber and plywood business. Starting from scratch, with relatively modest capital, operations were begun in 1948 on a very small scale. Gradually the company began to grow and within a few years, it began concentrating on the industrial market. Primary customers were major department stores with in-house store fixture workshops, major motion picture studios constructing sets, large cabinet shops, aircraft factories with in-house crating departments, furniture manufacturers and other industries that had use for pine and other softwood lumber and plywood.
Almost from the beginning, the company operated what had become an active retail “do-it-yourself” business in front of the wholesale operation on the northwest corner of Burbank Boulevard and Fulton Avenue. At first, the retail aspect of the company business sold only lumber and operated only on weekends when all traditional lumber yards were closed. In 1948 and for some years, Neiman-Reed was the only lumber yard in the area to stay open for weekends. That “new” concept in retailing back in 1948 came from the request of nearby owners of a new housing tract who had plenty of projects to complete. The “cash and carry” business was so successful that first weekend that they never again closed on a weekend. Slowly, paint and hardware and building materials were added to the product mix. By 1950, a small retail store was built on the corner—a prelude to the concept of the American home center. In 1963, the company created a subsidiary called Neiman-Reed’s Lumber City to operate a home and garden improvement center on a five-acre site in Chatsworth in the northwest part of the San Fernando Valley. Lumber City #2 opened in 1967 on a site adjacent to the original wholesale operation on Burbank Boulevard in Van Nuys. A year after the second Lumber City opened, a third Lumber City opened in Mission Hills. Eventually, the Lumber City chain grew to fourteen stores in southern California.
In 1981, 51% of the company stock was sold to a British company—UBM Group, PLC based in Bristol, England, with plans to buy the remaining portion within five years time. However, the U.S. shareholders bought back the 51% of the stock four years later as they found their working relationship with the Britons as unsatisfactory. As the U.S. shareholders were planning for retirement, a search was launched for a U.S. buyer, hopefully with a solid track record in the home-center / lumber industry.
The search ended with Jess Ruf, who for some years had been the president of Lone Star Western—a conglomerate of home centers as well as retail lumber yards and wholesale lumber operations. In 1979, when Lone Star opted to sell their businesses to companies like Wickes and Louisiana-Pacific, he purchased and operated a small home-center chain called Sunset Builders. Jess operated that until the purchase of Neiman-Reed and Lumber City was consummated at the end of 1986.
With dramatic changes in the home-center market that started in the late 1980’s, Lumber City repositioned itself with the onslaught of the “big boxes”. With a strong commitment to quality in service and products, our affiliated home centers (averaging about 30,000 square feet per store) redefined their strongest market areas and currently have locations in Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Moorpark, Simi Valley, Burbank, La Crescenta/Tujunga, and Mammoth Lakes now doing business as the California Do it Centers. There’s also Virgil’s Hardware Home and Garden in Glendale and two newly opened prototypes dba D-I-Y Home Centers in South Lake Tahoe and Big Bear, California.
In addition to our home centers, our other affiliated chain is Patioworld—California’s largest in-stock dealer of premium outdoor furniture and accessories. Patioworld’s locations include LA-area stores in Woodland Hills, Thousand Oaks, and Fountain Valley and central / northern California stores in Fresno, San Rafael, Sunnyvale, San Carlos, Walnut Creek, Pleasanton and Morgan Hill.
In February 2003, Neiman Reed relocated to its present facility at 7875 Willis Avenue in Panorama City in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. Our company acquired and relocated to the yard of the former Nickerson Lumber and Plywood Corporation. Our Burbank Boulevard site of 55-years was needed for a “busway” for the Metropolitan Transit Authority—part of a 14-mile rapid transit route for the San Fernando Valley named the Orange Line.
At our Panorama City distribution yard, stock arrives daily by truck, van, container, and rail (Union Pacific served). Lumber and plywood are sourced from many domestic mills, but a large percentage of the inventory mix now includes imports from South America, Canada, China, New Zealand, and Europe.
Neiman Reed’s wholesale lumber operation promises to be an expansionary part of our business. Well positioned as leader in our field, Neiman Reed Lumber Co. is poised for growth and has now expanded our service areas in recent years to include northern California, Nevada, Arizona and beyond. We’re excited for what lies ahead – hoping to add many new exciting chapters to our history that began with our formation back in 1948.