Former Homestead building torn down in New York Mills
From his desk in the New York Mills Lumber Depot offices, Warren Thompson could still see part of the old building along Centennial Drive that used to house Homestead Building Supplies.
Until last week, that is.
The building, which was moved to NY Mills from Bluffton in the 1920s (Thompson estimates 1926 or 1927) and has been a consistent presence in NY Mills, was torn down on June 22 and 23.
Homestead Building Supplies, based in Brookings, S.D., closed three area locations - also in Frazee and Perham - last month.
Thompson said that, as far as he knew, the building came from Bluffton in three separate pieces.
Since it moved to NY Mills, the building had always housed a lumberyard, though it changed hands several times. Ownership of the building went from Wilcox to Peavy to Homestead in 1984, Thompson said. The building was remodeled to its current state in 1980.
Thompson started work with Wilcox Lumber back in 1968 when things were done a little bit differently.
"We didn't have a forklift back then," he said. "Things went on by hand and came off by hand."
Thompson said that he was "kind of sad" about the destruction of the Homestead building.
"But it's progress," he said.
NY Mills Mayor Larry Hodgson echoed that sentiment.
"A lot of people are going to think it's a great loss for the city, but it's also a sign of progress," Hodgson said. "The old business is being replaced by a new, modern lumberyard."
Hodgson said that the destruction of the Homestead building has been a common topic of conversation among locals at the Eagle's Café in NY Mills.
"The people of our community are so used to it being there," he said. "Just this morning, somebody told me, 'now there'll be a large hole there.'"
The building, Hodgson said, had given the town a part of its face.
"It was a business that had been established for many, many years," he added.
Looking forward, Hodgson said that he hoped that business owners might see the empty spot along Centennial Drive as an opportunity, not as a loss.
"Hopefully now people will see that space and think, what a great place for a business to relocate," Hodgson said.
Lumber Depot co-owners Chris and Peggy Rutten hope that their new business can fill the shoes left by the closing of Homestead. When that business dissolved, Peggy said, the couple bought out what was left of the inventory.
Chris had been a contractor in Perham for many years, and starting a new business in NY Mills seemed like 'a good next adventure,' Peggy said.
Before it closed, Homestead had three employees, all of whom now have a home at Lumber Depot.
Peggy said that they're trying to bring things as local as possible for contractors.
Now, instead of having to drive to Moorhead, Alexandria or even further, Lumber Depot will carry everything that businesses need, she said.
The location of the new business was also important.
"We wanted a lumberyard right in NY Mills, rather than a highway box store," Chris said.
"The small town loyalty was attractive to us," Peggy added.
"It's really important to be locally owned and to have people who are active in the community," Thompson said. "We hope that people will support us in our new venture here."
Hodgson said that NY Mills was very lucky to have the Ruttens to take over the lumberyard business.
"Chris knows how to treat his customers, and he knows what they want," Hodgson said. "That spells nothing but success for that business."