In business since 1900, Shiver Lumber Company in Americus, Georgia, is a small business with a big history. From supporting American victory to serving a Commander in Chief, Shiver Lumber has done it all – growing its place in the market and sharing important lessons about “buy local” along the way.
In 1900, John Shiver opened his lumber company in a strategic location next to the railroad in town. The railroad shipped Shiver’s products all over the country, but at that time, the young business had a narrow range of products. “In the early 1900s, we primarily were a ‘stick and bricks’ store, but soon the market demanded that we move into hardware and paint,” says Roland Kauffman, Shiver’s paint department manager. “In 1936, we became a Devoe paint dealer, making us one of the oldest Devoe dealers in the nation.”
In the same way, the company has now expanded to include a floorcovering department and an equipment rental service. “Currently, we sell everything you would need to build and finish a house from the ground up,” Roland says.
In addition to expanding the business, Shiver Lumber has also expanded its family ties. The company is now owned by the third and fourth generations of the founding family, Johnny Shiver and son Wade Shiver.
Still, the history of Shiver Lumber is remarkable not only for its number of years in business, but also for its rich connection to the community and the country. During World War I and World War II, Shiver Lumber used its mills and shops to build products for the American government. The company also maintains a close relationship with Habitat for Humanity, which is headquartered right across the street. Even more unique, Shiver Lumber is proud to call President Jimmy Carter one of its valued customers.
“Once, I was paged for a telephone call and answered using the speakerphone as I was quite busy,” Roland says. “The caller said, ‘Hi Roland, this is Jimmy Carter from Plains, and I have a question.’ Needless to say, I immediately picked up the handset and said, ‘Yes sir, Mr. President. How can I help you?’”
Not all small businesses can call an American president their customer, but the unique stories told by each reveal the rich history of their communities. Small business owners often have vivid memories of the community’s troubles and triumphs – from natural disasters to record-breaking events – because their businesses are deeply involved in the community. Over its four generations and more than 100 years, Shiver Lumber has become a staple in the community, a carrier of local traditions and an archive of local values.
Shiver Lumber’s long and vibrant history has also allowed the company to recognize trends and share valuable lessons about buying local. “The death of mom and pop stores will be the death of jobs,” Roland says. “Big box stores have already taken many privately owned stores out of business. We believe that through our faith in God above, customer service, innovation, ingenuity and knowing the community’s needs, privately owned businesses can not only survive, but excel in today’s marketplace.”
Shiver Lumber’s rich history is a reminder that small businesses do much more for local communities than return money to the economy. They enrich the history of the communities they serve by making lasting connections with neighbors and local organizations; and by carrying valuable lessons from one generation to the next.