NORFOLK – Charles E Carhart arrived in Wayne, Nebraska in 1910 from Canton, South Dakota, where he had lived for a year. After Charles located in Wayne, his brother Benjamin joined them and they operated a hardware store on the east side of Main Street between 2nd and 3rdrd Streets, then opened a second hardware store in Emerson, NE. The hardware business was sold in 1919 to Lloyd McNatt and was operated by two generations of the McNatt family.
In 1921, the two Carhart families purchased a lumber yard in Wayne, NE at 105 Main Street from Franklin Philleo and John Harington and founded Carhart Lumber Co.
Charles and his son Ralph and Charles Benjamin’s brother with his son John Braden Carhart began operating the lumber yard and were joined in 1923 by John C. Carhart who had studied engineering at the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL. Ralph, Braden, Benjamin were involved in sales and John C. did estimating, accounting and advertising with Charles.
The 1920s were a rewarding period for the Lumber Company. The 1930s came with more difficult circumstances. Charles toured the area and began branching out into the lumber business by purchasing yards owned by larger multi-yard companies that operated on leverage and were ready to sell lumber. stores to raise funds. Yards were purchased at Randolph, Pierce, Hartington and Plainview. The companies were incorporated in 1936 with Wayne as their head office.
Carl Lueders was a key figure who shaped the pre-WWII form of Wayne Shipyard. His main gift to the Carhart family was his expertise in the construction of any timber farm building.
Roy Christensen joined the company just before World War II in 1939. Roy graduated from the University of Nebraska and grew up in a wood family in Blair. He was established in Pierce when the United States entered World War II and was called up by Uncle Sam to serve as an officer aboard a Navy ship until the end of the war. He returned to Carhart Lumber and managed the Neligh yard until John Carhart transferred him to Wayne as the CEO of the company.
One manager who helped shape the operations and success of the Wayne store after World War II was Bob Harrison. Bob was a bomber pilot during WWII and met Ralph Carhart while in Wayne visiting the Casper family (dentist Wayne) whose daughter he married (Dorothy Casper). Ralph hired him and Bob became the store manager (1948-1958). Bob moved to Blair in the early 1960s to manage the Carhart-Christensen Lumber Co.
In 1952, the company purchased and renovated the central garage building adjacent to the Wayne Lumber Yard and it became the first store with plumbing, electrical and household equipment in addition to traditional lumber, painting, construction equipment and farm fencing. Shortly thereafter, all of the Carhart lumber yards were converted to stores which were labeled “home improvement centers.” The main visible change was that the aisles of the “old” lumberyard were closed and this space was converted into a store to visibly display items that were previously in a back room.
Robert (Bob) Carhart joined the company in 1957. He and Roy Christensen shared responsibility for the construction of 90 building lots in the Westwood residential extension, which was purchased by Carhart Lumber in 1959 from Wayne , Born. Robert (Bob) also operated the roof truss factory which opened in 1964. This division also manufactured wall panels and floor trusses, allowing the company to diversify and sell in greater volume. Robert (Bob) was Managing Director of Carhart Lumber from the early 1980s until his retirement in 2001.
Charles Carhart moved to Neligh in the early 1950s to manage the yard. He returned in 1966 following the death of his father Ralph in 1965. He brought extraordinary communication and diplomacy skills which enriched the training opportunities for store employees and increased the efficiency of all employees.
In 1993, a major update to the Wayne store was made to adopt a Do-it Best store design. Otte Construction Company did most of the work outside the store to cover the separate buildings which were the old lumber store lane and the old central garage. This included adding additional store footage that had been the location of gas pumps in the front of the garage.
Customer delivery has always been a very important part of doing business. A good construction and delivery team is just as valuable as the products delivered. People often remember Don Koll and Robert Hall, who were construction workers at Carhart Lumber in Wayne for many years. Students at Wayne State College have also played a critical role in staffing. They bring an energy, a positive attitude and a friendliness that customers appreciate.
The Carhart Lumber Company general office has been staffed with a team of highly skilled accountants. Charles E. Carhart was the very first. He was followed by John C. Carhart. Marcella Larson (Ms Earl Larson) led the staff for 25 years, Jill Kenny for 10 years and Judy Martindale has just retired in 2020 after 40 years of service.
Current Carhart Lumber Wayne employees are: Mike Kaup, Director; Mike Sturm, Entrepreneur Sales; Adam Westerhold, Retail Sales; Dan Tiedtke, yard foreman; Earl Mottl, Site Associate.
General Office Staff (Head Office): Scott Carhart, President / Owner; Brenda Carhart, Vice President / Owner; Peggy Hank, Office Manager; Joan Schmoldt, accounts receivable; Vicki Foote, Accounts Payable and Brandi Lanman, Marketing Director.
Scott and Brenda Carhart are the current owners and operators of all Carhart locations. Carhart Lumber – Wayne, Norfolk, Hartington, Bloomfield, Tilden, Neligh, O’Neill, Burwell and North Platte as well as Carhart Kitchen & Bath in Pierce and the recently added divisions: Carhart Interior Designs and Carhart Insulation.
Every employee has played a crucial role in the success of the company. Every customer has been important. Carhart Lumber would like to thank you all for the past 100 years.
Let’s celebrate our 100 years at our nine locations until 2021. Read our stories on our website pages at www.carhartlumber.com.