Carhart Lumber Company- Giving You The Power To Build
Charles E Carhart arrived in Wayne, Nebraska in 1910 from Canton, South Dakota where he had lived for one year. After Charles located in Wayne, his brother Benjamin joined in and they operated a hardware store on the east side of Main Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets and 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 established Carhart Lumber Co.
Charles and his son Ralph and Charles’ brother Benjamin with his son John Braden Carhart began operating the lumber yard and were joined in 1923 by John C. Carhart who had been studying engineering at the University of Illinois at Champaign, IL. Ralph, Braden, Benjamin were involved with sales and John C. did estimating, accounting, and advertising with Charles.
The 1920’s were a rewarding period for the Lumber Company. The 1930’s arrived with more trying circumstances. Charles looked around the area and began to branch the lumber company by purchasing yards owned by larger multi-yard companies who were operating on leverage and were ready to sell stores to raise cash. Yards were purchased at Randolph, Pierce, Hartington, and Plainview.
The companies were incorporated in 1936 with Wayne as the corporate headquarters.
Carl Lueders was a key personality who shaped the pre-WWII form of the Wayne yard. His primary gift to the Carhart family was his expertise in the construction of any wood farm buildings.
Roy Christensen was brought to the company just before WWII in 1939. Roy graduated from the University of Nebraska and was raised in a lumberyard family in Blair. He was established in Pierce when the United States entered WWII and was called up by Uncle Sam to serve as an officer aboard ship in the Navy until war’s end. He returned to Carhart Lumber and managed the Neligh yard until John Carhart moved him to Wayne as General Manager of the Company.
A manager who helped to shape the operations and success of the Wayne store in the post WWII period was Bob Harrison. Bob was a bomber pilot in WWII and happened to meet Ralph Carhart while in Wayne visiting the Casper family (Wayne dentist) whose daughter he married (Dorothy Casper). Ralph hired him and Bob became the Manager of the store (1948-1958). Bob moved to Blair in the early 1960’s to manage the Carhart-Christensen Lumber Co.
In 1952 the company purchased and remodeled the Central Garage building adjacent to the Wayne lumberyard and it became the first store with plumbing, electrical, and household hardware in addition to the traditional lumber, paint, builder’s hardware, and farm fencing. Soon after all Carhart lumberyards were converted into stores which were labeled “home centers”. The major visible change was that the drive through alleyways of the “old” lumberyard were closed and that space was converted into the store to visibly display the items that were previously in a “back room”.
Robert (Bob) Carhart joined the company in 1957. He and Roy Christensen shared responsibility in the construction of 90 building lots in the Westwood housing addition, which was purchased by Carhart Lumber in 1959 in Wayne, Ne. Robert (Bob) also operated the roof truss facility which opened in 1964. This division also manufactured wall panels and floor trusses, allowing the company to branch out and sell in larger volume. Robert (Bob) served as General Manager of Carhart Lumber from the early 80’s until his retirement in 2001.
Charles Carhart moved to Neligh in the early fifties to manage the yard there. He returned in 1966 following the death of his father Ralph in 1965. He brought extraordinary communication and diplomatic skills which enriched the opportunities for training store employees and increased the effectiveness of all employees.
In 1993 a major update of the Wayne store was done to adopt a Do-it Best Store Design. Otte Construction Company conducted the major portion of the work on the exterior of the store to cover over the separate buildings which were the old lumber store alleyway and the former Central Garage. It included adding additional store footage which had been the location of the gas pumps in the front of the garage.
Customer delivery has always been a very important part of business. A good yard and delivery team is just as valuable as the products being delivered. People oftentimes remember Don Koll and Robert Hall, who were yard employees at Carhart Lumber in Wayne for many years. Wayne State College students have also played a vital role in staffing. They bring an energy, positive outlook and friendliness that customers appreciate.
The General Office of Carhart Lumber Company has been blessed with a staff of very competent accountants. Charles E. Carhart was the very first. He was followed by John C. Carhart. Marcella Larson (Mrs. 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.
Scott & Brenda Carhart are the current owners and operators for all Carhart locations. Carhart Lumber- Wayne, Norfolk, Hartington, Bloomfield, Tilden, Neligh, O’Neill, Burwell and North Platte along with Carhart Kitchen & Bath in Pierce and recently added divisions; Carhart Interior Designs and Carhart Insulation.
Every employee has been crucial to the success of the company. Every customer has been important. Carhart Lumber wants to thank you all for the last 100 years.