Leadville Business News
For as long as there’s been a Leadville, there’s been businesses that start and stop; open and close. There are partnerships that come together, and some that fall apart. But any time that happens, it tends to create a wave of conversation; some of it true, and some of it not-so-true.
So Leadville Today (LT) reached out to some local business owners, to set the record straight, at least what they’re willing to share, respectfully so.
Smith Lumber Closes Doors After 115 Years in Business
There’s always a host of reasons a business closes. But when you’ve been in a family-owned and operated business in Leadville for more than 115 years, the decision seems even weightier.
Last month, long-time customers of the S.L. Smith Lumber Company received a notice that the business was closing. The note was also an invitation to loyal customers to the “largest sale in the history of the store . . . and the last!”
And while the multi-colored signs speak of retirement, and “everything must go,” the most obvious question still remains: Why? Why are they closing the doors?
Owner Dick Smith spoke most specifically about the recent recession, years that hit the construction industry particularly hard – including all its suppliers, like lumber yards.
“The reason we decided to close the doors is that there is not very much business. A lot of the local contractors got hurt by the recession, many of them left and there’s not much construction going on by the people who are here,” explained Smith.
Has Lowe’s and Home Depot affected your business? Are people buying over the hill, instead of locally?
“I’m sure they are,” stated Smith matter-of-factly, “but there’s always been lumber yards, over the hill, and down the valley. That’s nothing new. It is always slow during the winter months, of course and then it speeds up later on.”
Smith takes the beautifully framed incorporation papers (Circa 1900) down off the wall, where they’ve hung for that long.
The lumber company was started in 1896, but not officially incorporated until 1900. It was Dick’s Great Grandfather, Shadrack Lionel (S.L.) Smith who started the business. After all, during that time, Leadville’s mining industry was starting to boom, and a saw mill and lumber company was needed to provide the timber for all those trusses and head frames and houses, and etc.
There’s little doubt that S.L. Smith Lumber was an integral part of the local mining industry.
And while the first logs were probably hewn by hand, it wasn’t long before Smith saw the mill’s profitability and the Steam Engine that sits on display in the back room was brought into the operation. Although the exact year it was transported by railroad up to the same spot it sits today, is unknown.
The machine was made in 1883 by the Buckeye Steam engine company, and increased the saw mill’s production considerably. Eventually another saw mill was established a bit further up the mining district, to cut down on transportation efforts and costs. That mill was eventually lost to fire, according to Smith.
But the old historic steam engine remained. In fact, explained Dick Smith, “we went to a lot of trouble to build around it when we built this new facility in the 70s.”
Of course, he’d like the relic to stay here in town. “I would like for something to happen to it that is decent. It’s in exactly the same place it was installed to run the saw mill.”
And while a Breckenridge museum had expressed interest, at the time of this interview, Smith was still holding out hope, that something would come together for the historic Steam Engine to remain in town.
“I will donate it, but I’m not going to pay to have it done,” added Smith.
The S.L. Smith Lumber Company is fourth generation, started by Shadrack Lionel. Then there was Charlie Smith, his son Wilbur, and now current owner Dick Smith, making him fourth generation.
“My (adult) son, Chad died a year ago,” said Smith softly. “So he would have been number five (generation).” Yes, there are a lot of reasons that people choose to close a business.
“I’m just tired of it, tired of doing it,” Smith concluded. But when Dick and his wife, Charlene Smith, knew it was time to turn the closed sign one last time, they did try to sell it first.
So what’s next?
The Smiths haven’t made any plans, although Dick added that they are not leaving Leadville. There are no current plans for the building, either. Someone recently expressed interest in warehouse that sits right along the railroad tracks, but nothing definite.
Dick and Charlene are going to be retired which for them, means traveling a bit and spending time with their daughter Leesa and her family in Denver. “What else is there to say?” stated Smith.
Well, there’s the fact that this family businesses touched the lives of so many other Leadville families over the years.
“I think there have been,” Dick pauses to mentally tally the number of Leadville students who got their first job, their first paycheck from Smith Lumber. “Probably have been 70-80 high school boys who have worked here.”
And of course, as is often the case in a small town, their kids then grow up and bring them into Smith Lumber. “I remember going in there as a girl,” wrote one Leadville Today Facebook reader. “It’s sad it’s closing.”
“There’s been so many people that have been customers for so long. That’s kinda unique,” comments Smith. “There’s been a lot of great people who helped us over the years. Too many to mention.”
Smith Lumber will be open “until there’s nothing else to sell.” Surprisingly it’s emptying out pretty quick, compared to the 115+ years and memories that the Smith Family put into it. Thanks for the great customer service to the Leadville community. You will be missed.
It’s a Whiskey & Moonshine Liquidation Sale
Here’s a little update on what’s happening down at the corner of 4th and Harrison, at the former Two Guns Distillery, which closed unexpectedly this Spring.
There is a liquidation sale going on to sell off the rest of the whiskey and moonshine as well as any retail products associated with the distillery. Owners Dave and Donna Dawson have temporarily re-opened under the distillery license and are performing a final ‘close out’ of the products that were produced in the facility. Customers can purchase the bottles (while they last) and merchandise, as well as enjoy a tasting.
From there, the Dawsons have secured a new tenant who will be opening a tavern/restaurant, once all of the proper licensing and inspections have cleared. Sounds like it could have a “Doc Holiday” concept, but time will tell.
However, future plans will not include continuing the distillery license aspect of the business. So, for those who’d like to enjoy the moonshine, whiskey, and cowboy coffee products, head on down for “LAST CALL.”