B.C.’s oldest family-owned lumber mill marks 100 years in the Kootenay Valley.

Wynndel Box and Lumber Co. Ltd. is celebrating 100 years in business in B.C.’s Kootenay Valley. Monrad Wigen started the company, which began as a manufacturer of fruit boxes, in the small town of Wynndel in 1913. The sawmill is the oldest family-owned mill in British Columbia.

The 100th anniversary comes on the heels of a major restructuring of the company two years ago. “In 2011 we recognized that we needed to change our business model, make some painful decisions including downsizing and get more streamlined,” explained Michael D. Combs, CEO of Wynndel Box and Lumber. “We were trying to be too many things to too many people.”

The company refocused its efforts on its primary product: higher-value ESLP boards for the construction and furniture industries. “We make some of the highest-quality boards in the world – that’s what we’re known for,”said Combs.

Combs and his staff, recognizing that they had too much overhead and were too top heavy, eliminated the production of some of their value-added products and trimmed the staff from 160 to 100. The result: a strong fiscal operation with the best cus­tomer service the company has ever experienced.

“We could not have made any of these changes if not for our people. Our people have gone the extra mile,” said Combs. The revised production model has caused the company to see an in­crease in overall productivity, which has allowed it to produce between 180 and 200 million board feet per year.

To show their appreciation for their staff, Combs and his team held a pic­nic for all of their employees and their employees’ families. The day included dunk tanks, a barbecue and other activ­ities for the families to enjoy. Wynndel also held a public open house for its customers and local supporters to help celebrate the landmark anniversary.

Looking forward to the next 100 years, Combs said there are excellent opportunities for growth for Wynndel.

“There are international markets that we are not in yet,” said Combs. “For example China, as it matures and demand grows for high-end materi­als, is one of the potential markets we would like to explore. We are excited about our future.”

– By Andrew Macklin