By Garrett Estrada
Ely Times Staff Writer
Jim Bath walks the floor of Bath Lumber everyday with his employees. Though he is a co-owner with his brother Tom, he considers them his equals, and values their loyalty and good service. He has been in the business long enough to know that numbers, sales figures, good years and bad ones will ebb and flow, but none of that matters in comparison to his staff and the culture they create in his warehouse.
“The employees are the most important part of this business,” Bath said. “We have had a lot of long term employees that have really made this business. They have been like an extended family. We try to treat them well and they reciprocate that and they have done a lot for us over the years.”
He recalled when he first got started in the business in 1973. After having just returned home from school, him and his brother jump right into running the much smaller store back then. Though Bath’s father had started the company in 1948, Jim said he never got to work with him much, and thus, had to learn as he went.
In 1981, Jim and Tom moved the shop from “Lumberyard Hill” (the old moniker for the hill on Aultman Street that used to house several lumber stores) to its much bigger warehouse that it remains in today. It through those years that Jim learned how to overcome tough times, a lesson that he says he will “never forget.”
“The early ’80’s were a disaster,” Bath said. “We had a heck of a time just just filling the place with materials. It was a lesson in survival.”
From that survival, the Bath brothers have built a stable, mainstay business in the community, or as Bath likes to refer to it, a “mothership.” Now Bath Lumber ranks in the top 100 stores in the country in terms of Ace Hardware paint sold, even with such a small market size. The ranking even granted the store, and its customers a new benefit at the beginning of the year.
“For a small town, we go through a lot of paint. So when we updated our painting system in the store, we qualified for the very best of all computer mixing equipment,” Bath said. “I couldn’t have afforded what we have here, what we are using now, but it was all given to us because we do so much volume in paint.”
And he expects the mixer is about to get the most use of the year really soon. Bath Lumber is throwing their yearly paint sale on May 17 and 18, with a buy