Holt and Bugbee Company History
Tewksbury, Massachusetts 01876
Telephone: (978) 851-7201
Fax: (978) 851-3941
Sales: $42 million (2003)
NAIC: 321912 Cut Stock, Resawing Lumber, and Planing
Like many longstanding New England firms, the company started business with a simple trade and over the past 176 years has adapted its function to survive in an increasingly complex and demanding world.
- The company is founded by John Cutter.
- Stephen Holt, Cutter's son-in-law, joins the company.
- Cutter dies, John Bugbee joins company, which is renamed Holt and Bugbee.
- The company is incorporated.
- The company moves to Tewksbury, Massachusetts.
- Hold and Bugbee begin operations in Mt. Braddock, Pennsylvania.
- Operations are established in Boyertown, Pennsylvania.
Holt and Bugbee Company is located some 30 miles north of Boston in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. It is a fifth generation, family-owned company that acts as a wholesale distribution yard with a 500,000-board-feet inventory of the finest hardwood and softwood lumbers. One of the largest suppliers of hardwoods in the Northeast, it also maintains branches in Mt. Braddock and Boyertown, Pennsylvania. Holt and Bugbee imports lumber from around the world to its facilities, where the wood is cut, shaped, seasoned, and distributed for specialized uses by architectural millwork shops, boat builders, cabinet makers, furniture makers, and lumber yards.
Holt and Bugbee deals in a variety of woods that serve a wise range of uses. Ash White, a shock resistant hard wood with bending qualities, is sold for use in making furniture, paneling, flooring, molding, sporting goods like baseball bats, and tool handles. Basswood is a soft, lightweight wood suitable for carvings, luggage, drawing boards, blinds, and picture frames. Another soft wood is Butternut, generally known as White Walnut. It is an attractive rich tan color and used to make paneling, kitchen cabinets, interior trim, molding, and millwork. Cherry is a hardwood that comes in wide range of color from a dark reddish brown to a creamy white, and finds a variety of uses in furniture, paneling, flooring, clock cases, and kitchen cabinets. Drawn from the same family as Lauan, Meranti Dark Red is a favorite wood for use in ship building and is also suitable for paneling, molding, interior trim, and millwork. Mahogany South American is a stable wood that ages to a rich golden brown on exposure and is popular for woodenware, furniture, cabinetry, and paneling. Holt and Bugbee also offers Maple Hard Sugar, a relatively hard and heavy wood that is suitable for a number of uses, including furniture, woodenware, paneling, flooring, and interior trim. Soft Maple lacks the hardness and strength of Hard Maple but is suitable for many of the same uses, if strength and hardness are not as essential, as in the manufacture of some types of furniture, paneling, and molding. One of the most popular hardwoods in recent years is Red Oak, which is both attractive and strong and is readily available in the United States. It is used widely in furniture, flooring, cabinets, paneling, and interior trim. White Oak has some of the same traits as Red Oak, but its close grains makes it water resistant, offering greater protection from fungi and insects. It is used in marine applications and is also popular in furniture, paneling, flooring, molding, millwork, and interior trim. Yellow Poplar is a versatile soft wood that is suitable for paint-grade work and is used to make interior trim, store fixtures, drawer sides, molding, and millwork. American Black Walnut offers a warm, rich appearance and comes in a range of colors and grain ranges, making it ideal for fine furniture, jewel boxes, and cabinetry as well as paneling, flooring, molding, and interior trim. Holt and Bugbee also offers Teak, ideal for marine applications such as boat decking and trim. It is also used in the construction of fine furniture, paneling, and flooring.
The company's main 24.5-acre facility includes nine dry kilns with a capacity of 1,000,000 board feet, a 20,000-square-foot automated grading station able to accommodate 30 width and length selections, and a 70,000-square-foot automated machining facility. Holt and Bugbee employs a computerized laser system that is able to increase yield and minimize wood waste, a high-speed molder production facility, an on-site tooling shop, and a computerized milling optimizer that can detect wood defects and automatically determine and execute the proper number of cuts to maximize yield. Holt and Bugbee maintain a ten-person sales team that covers the United States from Maine to as far south as Virginia and as far east as Ohio.
19th Century Origins
Holt and Bugbee was established in Winchester, Massachusetts, in 1825 by John Cutter when he opened a sawmill to rough-cut Mahogany logs. At the time, New England saw mills relied on the supply of local timber, which was quickly being stripped, either by clearing for agricultural uses or by cutting for lumber and fuel. Area mills grew to rely on coastal schooners delivering native lumber from other parts of the United States, supplemented by the occasional shipment of exotic hardwoods from the Caribbean islands, Africa, and South America. These supplies were acquired in trade for the products produced by New England's growing industries, such as textiles and shoes. Cutter relied on a more mundane product that he used to arrange trade with a sea captain: block ice wrapped in seaweed, which would be transported to South America and traded for rough Mahogany logs. Over the next 25 years, Cutter's yard prospered, expanding beyond Mahogany to include other hard and soft woods. He was joined in business by his son-in-law, Stephen Holt, in 1850, and together they ran the company, known as Cutter & Holt, until Cutter's death in 1860. Holt took on a new partner, John Bugbee, and the company was renamed Holt and Bugbee. A family member of Bugbee, a nephew named George Tousey, became involved in the business in 1895. The company moved to Boston and was incorporated in the state of Massachusetts in 1906. Then, in 1911, it moved the operations to Charlestown, Massachusetts, the company's home for the next six decades.
John Bugbee assumed the presidency of the firm, a position he held for decades and did not relinquish until his death in 1928. All told, he worked at Holt and Bugbee for nearly 70 years. He was succeeded as president by George Tousey, who headed the company for the next 21 years. When Tousey died in 1949, Osmund O. Keiver took over as president, but after just four years he was replaced by Tousey's widow. She ran Holt and Bugbee for five years before retiring in 1958 and turning over the reins to her son-in-law, Roger Curtis Pierce. Born in Boston, he graduated from Boston Technical High School and Hebron Academy before attending Boston University. With the advent of World War II he joined the Army Corps of Engineers, serving in India and Burma. He married Mary Tousey and in 1950 went to work for her family's business.
Relocation in the 1960s
In the mid-1960s, Charlestown began to undergo redevelopment, and Holt and Bugbee elected to moved out of Boston to Tewksbury, Massachusetts, 30 miles north. In 1967, the company relocated to a five-acre site in Tewksbury that offered a larger warehouse and yard storage capabilities. The company also installed a state-of-the art warehousing and lumber handling system. More importantly, however, Tewksbury was well situated, close to Interstate 93 and 495 and Route 128, making Holt and Bugbee more accessible to the entire New England market. Delivery trucks would now be able to quickly reach metropolitan Boston and the suburbs west of the city as well as Salem in forty minutes and the entire Worcester area in less than hour.
By the time Holt and Bugbee celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1975, it added greatly to its new home. The company's operation now covered ten acres and included complete planning and milling facilities, housed in a new 15,000-square-foot steel building, which included planers, moulders, gang rips saws, band resaw jointers, and cut-off saws. Shed space was increased from the initial 25,000 square feet to nearly 50,000 square feet. Holt and Bugbee was well known as one of the best equipped wholesale lumber yards on the entire East Coast. It handled more than 30 species of hardwood and softwood, serving such markets as boats, musical instruments, architectural millwork, and furniture. The company also enjoyed a strong business supplying lumber to New England schools for use in woodworking in industrial arts and vocational educational training programs.
Holt and Bugbee enjoyed one of its strongest periods of growth during the 1980s. The growing demand for its products led to further need for kiln capacity. As a result, the company increased its number of kilns to nine, possessing a capacity of one million board feet, which provided an additional benefit. Holt and Bugbee had always offered hardwoods in certain thicknesses--8/4, 10/4, 12/4 and 16/4--as specialty items, but now these thicker sizes became part of the standard product line. During the 1980s, the company placed greater emphasis on service. Because many customers needed to sort to width and length in hardwoods, the company built a 20,000-square-foot automated grading system, capable of 30 width and length selections. The call for machined products also grew. Twenty years earlier Holt and Bugbee began to offer the machining of Hardwood lumber as a customer service, the demand of which steadily grew. To meet the need, the company added a 70,000-square-foot machining expansion that included the most sophisticated woodworking machinery available. Other improvements to the yard included the 1983 installation of an industrial boiler and Pneumafil dust collection system, which were fueled by wood waste of the milling operation. An increase in business also meant an increase in personnel. In 1987 the company added a second floor to its office accommodations.
The 1990s and Beyond
In May 1990, Roger Pierce died in his sleep at the age of 68, and his wife, Mary, succeeded him as president of the firm. During her tenure Holt and Bugbee expanded beyond Massachusetts for the first time. In 1993, the company bought ten acres of land in Mount Braddock, Pennsylvania, located south of Pittsburgh. A year later, a lumber yard operation opened on the site. Mount Braddock was well situated for Holt and Bugbee's business, located close to important sources of North Appalachian hardwoods, including some of the world's best Cherry. The facility would include an automated sticking facility, three air dying sheds (with a 300,000 board-feet capacity), six dry kilns (with a 350,000 board-feet capacity), an automated grading and sorting facility, planer, rip saw, rail siding and container loading services, and an inventory of two million board feet of lumber.
Mary Pierce stepped down as president in 1995, replaced by her son, Phillip T. Pierce. In 1999, the company established Holt and Bugbee Hardwoods in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, located some 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia. It was a smaller facility than the ones in Tewksbury and Mount Braddock, offering just milling services, but it included a 38,000-square-foot warehouse and an inventory of 500,000 board-feet inventory of lumber. The operation was strategically located, allowing Holt & Bugbee to better serve customers in the mid-Atlantic region.
As Holt and Bugbee entered a new century, just 25 years short of its bicentennial, it remained very much a family business, with a number of relations holding key positions. As it had done when John Cutter traded ice for Mahogany, the company continued to import hardwoods from around the world, as well as stocking wood native to the United States. At the same time, the company stayed current with the latest technologies while maintaining a tradition of craftsmanship, kept abreast of customer's changing needs, and positioned itself to enjoy continued prosperity.
Principal Subsidiaries: Holt & Bugbee Hardwoods; Holt and Bugbee Export Co., Inc.
Principal Competitors: Higgins Lumber Company; Mac Beath Hardwood Company; Luthier's Mercantile International, Inc.
- "Holt & Bugbee--Definitely Not Run of the Mill," National Hardwood Magazine, October 1988.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 66. St. James Press, 2004.