Jay later moved away to college, eventually taking a position as assistant director of admissions at Utica College, but his roots never left him.
"I came home one week of vacation to work, looked up at Jay Mountain and asked myself, 'Why am I not living here.'"
In July 1988, the brothers officially entered the family business. At the time, the business had grown to about 60 employees. By 1992, Jay had taken over as president and Jeff became senior vice president and owner. In 1996 Sidney Ward Jr. retired, leaving the brothers with sole responsibility of running the company.
Since that time, a lot has changed. In 2001 the family bought property in Malone and constructed a second 7,500-square-foot store and drive-through lumber yard. They also added a number of hard-to-find product lines, like wood pellets and stoves, Glidden and Valspar paint, Cabot stains and more recently Poulin Feed.
"We do our best to identify needs and then add services that help the customer," Jay said. "For example, we increased our paint department dramatically after Aubuchons closed in AuSable. There was a huge need there."
At the same time, the brothers have remained true to their family origins, operating a sawmill just a few miles from where H.M. Ward ran one of his own.
But H.M. would never have dreamed of some of the technological advancements that have taken place since.
For example, Jeff added a $750,000 metal detector a few years ago that uses a huge magnet to detect nails, spikes and other metal in logs prior to them entering the sawmill.
Inside the sawmill, manual feed machines and old circular saw technology have been replaced by a $1 million bandsaw system that uses lasers to measure the diameter of each log and makes precise cuts to tolerances once unheard of.