Employee-ownership can prevent job losses and closures when North Country business owners retire

May, 2021

Standing outside Ward Lumber in the Adirondack town of Jay, you could easily confuse the company’s namesake, Jay Ward, for a small-town mayor.

Over the course of a 30-minute, Ward repeatedly pauses to greet an incoming customer by name, complete with inquiries about family members and life over the past year. 

“If I stand here long enough, we are gonna get interrupted the whole time because it’s a community that we’ve been a part of,” Ward remarked, with more than a touch of pride.

His company is a true local institution. Started by Jay Ward’s great grandfather in 1890 as both a lumber mill and sale yard, Ward Lumber has been in operation for more than 130 years.

Jay is the fourth generation of Ward’s to own and operate the business; a job he’s held for more than 30 years. His brother owns the adjacent lumber mill that still supplies much of their product.

But for the first time in its 131 year existence, Ward Lumber is no longer owned by a member of the Ward family.

“This has been a lot of fun for 33 years, but I can’t handle another 33 years of that much fun.,” Ward quipped when asked about his decision to step back. 

Read and listen to the full story on North Country Public Radio