JAY - Brothers Jay and Jeff Ward strolled through their 15-acre sawmill on a recent sun filled afternoon and reflected about the changes they've experienced over the years in their family owned operation.
From its humble beginnings in 1890 as a lumber mill operated by Harvey M. Ward at the bow in the AuSable River to its modern day operation with nearly 100 employees, the Ward tradition has withstood the test of time.
Today, the same business philosophy and work ethic that has carried the Ward name through four generations remains intact. So much so, the local company is bucking the national trend and expanding during the nation's worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
"We had a successful year last year when others did not, and we'll have another good year this year," Sidney "Jay" Ward said confidently. "We just filled three positions and are looking for two more."
So what's the Ward family secret?
Without hesitation, Jay answered that question with: "Our employee team."
"We have a fantastic group of people here who are dedicated to quality," Jay said. "Those folks are what make the world go around here."
Ward Lumber Company is split into two divisions; building materials, overseen by Jay and lumber manufacturing, overseen by his younger brother Jeff. The duo started in the business as most young entrepeneurs do - at the ground level.
"We both worked through high school, starting out stocking pallets and the like and eventually driving deliveries," Jay said.
When Jay was a young boy, his father and grandfather still worked at the store. All three were named Sidney, leading to some confusion when a name was called.
"When someone called out our name, three heads would spin around," Jay said with a smile. "So, they started calling me Jay - and it stuck."