Knock on wood: Marissa lumber business still strong 145 years later

June 30, 2014 

Lumber is like snowflakes, says Doug White. No two are exactly alike.

As the fifth-generation owner of Doug White Lumber Inc. in Marissa, he has met several customers who either live in town or travel long distances just to buy lumber from his shop to find the right piece of wood.

White's great-great-great uncle Francis White founded the business in 1869. Doug Whites's great-grandfather, grandfather, and father operated the company in succession before him.

This year is the 145th for the lumber family-owned business.

White recently invited business reporter Will Buss to his shop to talk about his business:

Q: How long have you been involved with the family business?

A: "I've been in the business pretty well all of my life. I bought it after we got married, back in '86."

Q: Who in your family is involved with the business?

A: "There is my wife, Connie, my daughter Chelsea Campbell and my son Christopher worked here and then he moved out to Boulder, Colo. He may come back someday, hopefully. You never know."

Q: Did you always plan to join the lumber company?

A: "Yes. I've always enjoyed it. It's in my blood. I was unloading lumber back when I was 10, 11, 12 years old. I was always trying to help."

Q: What changes have you noticed over the years?

A: "Big-box stores have definitely had a large impact on it. So that's changed it. We now specialize more in hardwood and cypress. We created another business back in the early '80s."

Q: What is that business?

A: "Doug White Hardwoods. And that was before I was really active here. I started that and kind of branched out. My uncle and dad helped me get started in that. They lined up some walnut in Southern Missouri and my dad let me borrow one of his trucks and I went down there, loaded up some cedar and walnut and started the hardwood business in my dad's garage. I didn't have any place to store it, so I put it in dad's garage and pulled it out of that."

Q: What is your biggest seller today?

A: "We specialize a lot in cypress. That is our biggest seller."

Q: What do your customers buy lumber for?

A: "All of the above. We provide a lot beams for timber-built homes. We do custom-made flooring. We have 30 different kinds of hardwood that we cut at our mill. We have typical 2-by-4s, construction wood, 2-by-10s, 2-by-12s, that's the lumber yard part of it. We try to specialize in hardwood flooring, custom-made hardwood flooring and stairs, bar rails and we run a lot of moulding."

Q: What would you like to do next with your business?

A: "We're always looking. We change with the times. Every 10 or 15 years something comes along and we try to get on the bandwagon."

Name: Doug White

Job: Owner, Doug White Lumber Inc. @ 116 W. Church St. in Marissa (618-295-2315)

Outlook: "I've always enjoyed it. It's in my blood."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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