Jackson’s General Materials closes after 69 years
JACKSON, Michigan – General Materials has served the Jackson community for decades. But, it’s 69e the year will be the last. Earlier this year, Andrew Woell and his wife Heidi decided it was time to step down.
“My father’s parents are from Germany and they immigrated here in the early 1900s,” Heidi said. “My grandfather was a carpenter in Jackson. One of the first carpenters and he and his brother had a business here. My father always grew up in the lumber industry. He was also a carpenter with my grandfather.
So, in 1952, Fred Schmid decided to open his own business. It happened right after WWII.
“He saw a real estate boom arrive so he wanted to participate. He started with this GI Bill program and he graduated and he started making material, ”Heidi said.
Fred worked there until his death in 2007 at the age of 89.
“He was here the whole time,” Heidi said.
In more than 65 years in business, General Materials has sold everything from lumber and doors to windows, roofs and siding. They started out selling materials in Jackson County, then statewide, and eventually to businesses and businesses across the country.
Andrew is the president of General Materials and, like many other employees, has worked for the company for decades. He’s been there for 32 years and says the main reason for the longevity of his staff and loyal customers is simple.
“It’s the quality of the products we offer and the people who work here. Really have a pleasant experience to buy materials from General Materials. We have a great staff, they know the industry, they know the products, they care about our customers and they have built friendships and good customer relationships that we have had for many years, ”said Andrew.
This includes the General Manager, Josie Fuentes. She started as a filing clerk for 21 years alongside Fred.
“This is my second home. When you come to work Monday through Friday and Saturday, it becomes your second home. Andy, Heidi and Fred have always treated us like family and always have. You know, it’s a family business, ”Fuentes said.
She said the greatest joy was knowing everyone personally.
“They talk about their vacation or their job. Family. What happened. So when they walk into the building, you’re like, “Hey, John or Hey, Mark,” Fuentes said.
Now it’s time for a new chapter.
Heidi and Andrew sell the business to Wisconsin-based Amerhart, a wholesale distributor of other lumberyards in the area. It will no longer be by a retail establishment. It was the right occasion and the right time.
“We have four children. None of them were interested. They all have different careers and are enjoying their lives, ”she said. “We didn’t have an exit plan, we knew we probably wanted to retire within the next 10 years. We weren’t looking for that, we just had an offer. In fact, it’s amazing how many people became interested in other businesses during the pandemic. When we were approached we were like, “Wow, it’s much earlier than expected. But, the time had come. The pandemic made you think of many things and the brevity of life and it was time for us to seize this opportunity. “
Amerhart has offered each of the 10 General Materials jobs to continue working there.
The Woells wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“They have 10 warehouses across the country, mostly east of the Mississippi. But it’s a good business, a family business. They value employees, just like we do. This is one of the reasons we want to with Amerhart. We wanted to hire all of our staff intact. Obviously, they’ve seen the good work they’ve done for us here at General Materials and feel they can pass it on to Amerhart as well.
Josie will be at least one of the 10 who will stay put. She accepted a job with Amerhart as a warehouse manager.
“I’m anxious. It’s something new but the same with everything that’s going on it’s still my home. I stay so I always come to the same place just a different atmosphere. I look forward to this.” she said. “We have all become family. There are only 10 of us working next door and many of us have been here for a very long time.
Heidi and Andrew’s future plans are to retire.
“My husband has early-stage Parkinson’s disease and was diagnosed in 2005. This will be our priority as well as our grandchildren. We will no longer be in Jackson. We’ll be living in northern Michigan in the summer and then in Florida in the winter because he does better with it, ”Heidi said. “If we wanted to, we could be very busy everyday with exercising Parkinson’s disease, so we are retiring now so that Andy can enjoy his life and I can enjoy mine as well. “
Something that Andy admits will take some getting used to.
“It seems strange to think about retirement because I’m not even 60 yet. But I think the opportunity came at the right time for us. We’re going to hang up our cleats and go back to the clubhouse to do what retirees do, whatever, ”he said.
As they continue to get rid of their current inventory, which they cannot sell, some will go to organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
“Habitat for Humanity is a great organization and we love to support them. Their mission is good. It’s a good choice for us too because we have some material that they can use for habitat, ”said Andrew.
As Andrew looks back on his time with General Materials, he has a mixture of emotions.
“I hope I am relieved and happy to move on to the next phase of our life. That’s kind of what I’m looking for. I would like to leave with the feeling that we have done well for the people of Jackson and for our employees, ”he said. “It’s not easy to run a business. There is a lot of competition there. I think over the years we have been successful in taking our clients.
He said: “Our employees have made it possible for us to take care of our customers over the years. I think in the end I would like to be remembered that, that we took care of the customers and served our people.
For Heidi, she knows that many homes in the Jackson community contain a piece of General Materials.
“General Materials has been here for a very long time and many families have had their homes built with our wood. We hear a lot of stories from young people coming in saying, “Oh, I remember coming with my dad or my grandfather”. Jackson is a very small hometown, a very vibrant hometown.
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