BARRE — The local family whose surname has been synonymous with “lumber” in central Vermont since the late-19th Century has reached a deal to sell its 132-year-old business to a friendly competitor.
Burnie Allen, part-owner and treasurer of Allen Lumber Co., confirmed Tuesday the family business that was founded in 1888 is about to change hands — and names.
“It’s a pretty emotional time,” Allen said, barely 24 hours after a purchase and sales agreement that will further fuel the expansion of r.k. Miles was executed.
Based in Manchester, r.k. Miles has six locations — four in Vermont and two in Massachusetts — and the already prominent building materials supplier is poised to double its presence in the Green Mountain State.
Allen Lumber’s outlets in Barre, Montpelier, St. Johnsbury and Waitsfield are all part of a looming sale that is scheduled to be finalized on March 31.
There is work to do between now and then and much of it will involve existing employees at all four locations as part of a transition that marks the beginning of the end of an era.
Allen and his three surviving brothers – fifth generation owners of a business they took over when their father, Bob, retired in 1984 – aren’t complaining.
“We’re all still working here and we all are going to continue to work here,” Allen said, noting that except for the name change it will be pretty much business as usual after April 1.
That’s the message that was shared with Allen Lumber’s staff on Monday and is now being communicated to both customers and vendors.
If your last name is Allen and your name is on the sign outside the business where you’ve worked since you were a kid, the sale has something of a bittersweet feel, but it’s one Allen said has been “in the works for awhile” as he and brothers, Gary, Steven and Tom, weighed their options.
None are quite ready to retire, but all are in the neighborhood, prompting thoughtful consideration of a transition plan that preceded the death of brother and business partners, Paul Allen, three years ago.
Allen described it as a years-long process that eventually led to a substantive discussion with Josiah “Joe” Miles, president of r.k. Miles.
“We’re very happy with r.k. Miles, Joe (Miles) and his crew,” Allen said, noting the businesses are similar in many respects.
“They’re as close to the way we run our business as you can get,” he said, predicting a relatively seamless transition that will necessarily include a name change.
“It’s been a lot of years … A lot of family,” Allen said. “Five generations ...”
Two of those generations are still active in the business and will continue to be once the sale is complete.
Allen said he and brothers, Gary and Steven will remain active in the company’s flagship Barre store, his son, Lance, will continue to manage the Montpelier store and brother, Tom will stay on as manager of the St. Johnsbury location.
“We’re all going to continue to stay on here for some time,” he said.
Miles is counting on it.
“That is absolutely the plan,” he said Tuesday. “We need those people to run the business.”
Miles, the third generation owner of a business his grandfather Richard K. Miles founded in Manchester in 1940, said he respects what the Allen family built over more than a century in central Vermont.
“I get a sense of real responsibility for what we’re doing here,” he said, using the word “stewardship” to describe his approach to taking on an established business with a solid reputation.
“They’ve got a great legacy and history,” he said of the Allen brothers.
Miles, who took over his family business following the death of his father in 1992, has strategically sought opportunities to expand it over the years. In 2005 he acquired Taconic Lumber Co. adding established locations in Middlebury and Williamstown, Mass. Three yeas later he opened a second Massachusetts location in West Hatfield.
In 2017 r.k. Miles acquired Morrisville Lumber Co., and added locations in Morrisville and Stowe.
Allen Lumber’s expansion occurred over the a much longer period of time and the business the Allen brothers are selling doesn’t remotely resemble the one Stillman Allen opened in a Barre storefront in 1888.
It still says lumber, but doors, windows, kitchen and bath cabinetry, countertops and plumbing fixtures have become an important part of the business that offers kitchen and bath design services.
None of that is expected to change when the sale is complete. The name will, but Miles said customers can expect to find familiar faces in the same places after r.k. Miles absorbs Allen Lumber.