, Newburyport, MA

November 16, 2011

New life for vacant Eastern Lumber site

Jackson Lumber to renovate, open in spring

By Dave Rogers
Staff writer

AMESBURY — A Lawrence-based lumberyard chain is expected to open its newest location in Amesbury next spring at the site of the former Eastern Lumber Company.

A deal in principal has been reached by the Torrisi family, owners of Jackson Lumber & Millwork, to purchase the 3.5-acre site and the 14,000-square-foot store on Route 110. Eastern Lumber — a lumberyard that also sold hardware, gardening supplies, household items and milk — shuttered its doors for good at the end of June after more than 61 years in business.

Jackson Lumber & Millwork president Al Torrisi announced yesterday that his agreement with current landowner Anthony Matrumalo should be completed by January. Neither Torrisi or Matrumalo would comment on the sale price.

"It would take something of an extraordinary nature for this deal not to follow through," Torrisi said.

Once the deal is complete, months of extensive renovations and new racking is expected to take place before the store and lumberyard opens in spring 2012.

"We're not going to open on the day we close on this transaction. We want to update it and upgrade it to the way we want the location to look," Torrisi said.

Torrisi said his company had searched for several years for the right location to expand its business to the northern portion of Essex County, the beaches and Southern New Hampshire. Once learning of Eastern Lumber Co.'s closure, Torrisi approached Matrumalo and asked if he would interested in selling to him.

Another attractive aspect of the Eastern Lumber Co. site was its proximity to major highways and its access to neighboring communities. Negotiations began roughly three months ago and were completed recently.

"Oh, we're very excited about this move. We have a lot of friends in the beaches who have talked to us over the years that if we had a location closer, they would come by. We think this is a very positive move for our family and for the 140 people who work at the company presently," Torrisi said.

In addition to its recently renovated Lawrence facility, Jackson Lumber & Millwork has another full-size lumberyard and millwork manufacturing facility in Raymond, N.H., along with a kitchen design showroom at the Butcher Boy Plaza in North Andover. Torrisi had operated a lumberyard in Haverhill until the summer of 2009. The property was sold to Joseph's Gourmet Pasta so the food company could expand its business.

With its expansive mill yards and lumber selection, the stores typically cater to professional contractors and carpenters. But Torrisi emphasized that the Amesbury location would retain Eastern Lumber Co.'s large selection of hardware and retail components.

Matrumalo and his family had been running the Route 110 fixture for more than 22 years under the loose umbrella of the True Value hardware giant. In May, Matrumalo said his decision to close had less to do with economics and more with wanting to focus on other pursuits.

With Eastern Lumber Co.'s closing, Amesbury was left with one independent retail hardware store, Amesbury Industrial Supply Co. on High Street near Market Square.

Reached outside his former Route 110 store yesterday, Matrumalo said he felt positive about selling his longtime family business to another family-owned company.

"I've known that family for many years; they're good people," Matrumalo said. "I'm very fussy about what happens here at Eastern Lumber."

Torrisi stressed the importance of maintaining the bonds built between Eastern Lumber Co. and the Amesbury community.

"Eastern Lumber held firmly to a special set of values that we share at Jackson Lumber. We are looking forward to building on Eastern's strong tradition in the region and bringing the Jackson enthusiasm and commitment to this endeavor," Torrisi said.

Word of the sale was welcome news to Amesbury Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Anna Bonaventura, who said that she was heartened to learn that a large empty storefront would be filled in the near future.

"We're just very excited that they're planning to expand to Amesbury. I think they'll be a great addition to the community, and we're looking forward to them opening in 2012," Bonaventura said.

Torrisi said it was too early to tell how many jobs the new store might create, but he said there would be a need for several salespeople, yard workers and drivers.

"Those will all be people we will be hiring for the store in the spring," Torrisi said.