By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Since 1935, Vincent Lumber has been in operation as a Shinnston business. Originally owned by A.L. Vincent and located on lower Station Street in Shinnston, it offered building supplies of all kinds … and continued to do so even after the passing of its original owner when A.L.’s son Bob Vincent continued to steer the family-owned business.
Both of Bob’s sons – Ronnie and Bobby – joined him, and even his daughter Diane worked there from time to time as a teen. Fast forward to 1980, and Vincent Lumber incorporated with a few changes ensuing. A concrete business that had been added was given to sons Ronnie and Bobby to run, and the lumber business was turned over to Bob’s daughter Diane and her husband Louie Smith.
While Vincent Concrete was sold a few years ago to a new owner, Vincent Lumber has remained a family legacy. During its long history, all seven of Bob’s grandchildren have worked there at one time or another. His first grandchild, Tammy Vincent Boyles, still works in the office to this day!
Just last week, Vincent Lumber, Inc. changed ownership and former owners Louie and Diane Smith have announced their departure.
After having some health issues last year, Louie said that Diane began to seriously lecture him about retirement, and he finally yielded to her conviction that “it was time”.
“I’ve been here working ever since I got out of the Navy; that was 52 years ago,” Louie said. “And Diane and her niece Tammy have been running the office steadily since 1990. It’s time to turn the page, and both Diane and I are very pleased that the doors will not be closing. There will just be someone much younger running the business and we feel quite confident that he will do a great job.”
That new owner is Jeffrey Chalfant, a Bridgeport native. He most definitely qualifies in the category of a “young entrepreneur”! Jeffrey is 18 years of age and a 2018 graduate of Bridgeport High School. Even though he’s young, owning his own business has been his dream, and he says that during his high school career he took every business, accounting, and finance course he could … and did well.
At least in part, he credits heredity for his eagerness to be a part of the business world. His father is a brick and block mason who owns White Lightning Contracting. A private contractor, he has developed Diamond Cove, an exclusive housing development on Rt. 131 near Bridgeport, and has built many of the homes there. He also owns a storage facility on Rt. 73.
While some may be surprised that such a young man is jumping into entrepreneurship at such an early age, Jeffrey says he’s ready. However, he also loves to cook and opening a restaurant was really his first desire.
“Originally, my dad and I inquired about the former Dairy Queen/Brazier facility property that the Vincent family owned,” he explained. “But when we learned that they wanted to sell both properties as one package, we thought it over and decided to go for it! I would still like to put in a restaurant there at some point, but those thoughts will be pushed forward. This business will be my prime focus right now.”
The upstairs of the former Brazier, though, is already being renovated and updated and will be rentable living space upon its completion.
Will there be changes at Vincent Lumber Co.? Jeffrey noted that at this point, most things will remain the same.
“The employees will remain and we will still carry the same building supplies, hardware, etc. just as the business has offered in the past,” Jeffrey confirmed. “But I’m already looking to the future and would like to expand our hours as well as the product lines. I also would like to add more lighting to brighten things up a bit in the showroom area. We won’t be getting rid of anything but the hope is to add more as time progresses.”
The one change that has already taken place is the addition of high technology. “Although their billing system was already computerized, now bookkeeping, inventory and sales postings will all be done electronically – all networked together. It may take a little while for everyone to become accustomed to automated programming of all of this, but the end result will be worth it,” he added.
The ownership conversion has been a work in progress for the past month, Jeffrey noted. He has been coming in every day for the past month with Louie sharing his knowledge and offering his help during Jeffrey’s learning process.
“We have every confidence in him,” Louie stated. “Jeffrey is more mature than his years … a very bright young man … energetic … and eager and quick to learn. We have no qualms whatsoever about turning the key over to him. We know the business is being left in good, capable hands.”
For Diane, though, whose family has owned the business for 85 years, there is a little sadness mixed in with the joy of retirement.
“We’ll miss it, I’m sure. It will be different after all these years of keeping a schedule and having a set routine. We’ve been very blessed through the years with loyal customers, and we couldn’t have asked for better employees; Kevin Kuchens has been with us for years and Matthew Skidmore has been here a long time too. And with my niece Tammy staying on as well, there will still be Vincent blood in here! Most of all, we’re very pleased that Vincent Lumber will remain in operation in this community along with a few others that have a long history in Shinnston,” she said.
For Jeffrey Chalfant … he’s ready to move forward. “I’ve gotten to know the employees here, met a lot of the customers and look forward to meeting more as time goes on. My hope is that Vincent Lumber Company will grow and bring even more to the local area,” he said. “Although it will be some time down the road before we do something with the Brazier property, we’ve had our thinking caps on and have determined that it would be very possible to operate two businesses on these adjacent properties … and there is ample room for the addition of more parking if it is called for. In the meantime, I invite people in the community to stop by and offer their ideas about what they would like to see go in there. I’m open to suggestions!” he concluded.
Chalfant expects to host a grand opening in the near future, but no date has been set yet.