Hills Flat Lumber: Family through and through
September 21, 2014
Hills Flat Lumber Co., one of Nevada County's oldest businesses, has changed over its more than 90-year history, moving from different locations while providing new and innovative products and services for homeowners and contractors throughout the state and country. But one thing the company hasn't changed is an ownership that spans three generations within the Pardini family.
"We have grown the business about 15 times larger than what it started as," co-owner Jeff Pardini said. "That's pretty good, and we've kept the business in the family."
In 1921, Pete Andreotti, a ranch owner from the Rough And Ready area just outside of Grass Valley, decided to mill some lumber for a barn he was building. When local community members asked him if they could buy any leftover lumber he had, Andreotti, along with his bookkeeper, Edward Joseph Pardini Sr., began to sell the lumber, launching Hills Flat Lumber Co.
"My grandfather at the time was a young man," Jeff Pardini said. "And they logged all over this area for years."
“One guy needed lumber to build a house for his family, but he didn’t have the money to buy it. So my grandfather sat down with him and had him make him a promise, that if he gave him the lumber for free, that whenever that man needed anything for his house, he would always buy it from Hills Flat. So he promised he would, and my grandfather gave him the materials he needed to build his home.”
Originally marketed as a wholesale lumber mill, Ed Pardini Sr., with help from a close friend and assistant, Manuel "Chick" Cicogni, would load up a truck with lumber and frequent areas around the local community selling lumber to residents in need.
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According to Jeff Pardini, his grandfather began to build invaluable relationships within the community, and when customers would not have the funds to pay for their lumber, Ed Pardini Sr. would often take people in the community under his wing and make a deal that would last a lifetime.
"One guy needed lumber to build a house for his family, but he didn't have the money to buy it," Jeff Pardini said. "So my grandfather sat down with him and had him make him a promise, that if he gave him the lumber for free, that whenever that man needed anything for his house, he would always buy it from Hills Flat. So he promised he would, and my grandfather gave him the materials he needed to build his home."
Jeff Pardini added, "Years later my grandfather bumped into the man and said, 'You know, I noticed you painted your house, but you didn't buy our paint to paint it.' The man told him he didn't have the money to buy paint from Hills Flat, so my grandfather gave him some money and said, 'Well, now you do.'"
Hills Flat quickly grew and began using three mills to supply the community's growing need for lumber. The company got business from the county, as well, helping to supply lumber for water and irrigation flumes in and around Nevada County.
Hills Flat also began to rake in business from the local gold mines, providing materials to brace hundreds of miles of underground mining tunnels in order to protect miners from rock and soil above their heads, keeping the miners safe while underground.
"Hills Flat Lumber sold lumber to all the mines, the Idaho Maryland mines, the Empire mines, and the timbers to support the mine shafts and the flumes," Jeff Pardini said. "All the infrastructure for the gold mines, they provided for, along with materials to carry water for sustaining life and irrigation."
Ed Pardini Sr. would eventually take over the reins of the company, and in the 1950s, the company sold its mills and shifted its product base beyond lumber. Ed Pardini Sr. diversified his business to also include hardware, building materials and rentals.
The Pardini family business philosophy was simple: "Provide superior customer service and the highest quality building materials available."
"We deliver to Sacramento, San Francisco, Truckee and many other sites. So we've got a wide reach in the industry," Jeff Pardini said. "So we're bringing business from other areas to the county for the sales tax base in this town, which is huge for this area."
While the Pardini family has established itself as a prominent family owned local business in Nevada County, the story began across the Atlantic Ocean, in a small Italian province.
Giovonni Pardini was a farmer in Italy, and together with his wife, Clementina Pardini, they had three children — Louis, Carmelina and Maria.
Clementina Pardini would unfortunately die when Louis was 3 years old, and Giovonni would later marry Louise Boccia and have four more children — Adele, Joseph, Angelina and Bendicto.
Giovonni Pardini would pass away at age 58, and his 18-year-old son, Louis Pardini, moved to France to work in a factory in Marseilles. In 1886, Louis Pardini immigrated to San Francisco and then moved to Woodland, where he worked on a ranch and at the Towel Brothers lumber mills.
Louis Pardini eventually relocated to a 320-acre leased ranch near Grass Valley, and after seven years, he purchased the property, which he would sell, eventually settling on 80 acres in the Bitney Springs area that he would devote to general farming.
Louis Pardini cleared 20 acres of his hilly land, cutting out a vineyard and an additional three acres dedicated to fruit trees. He would return to Italy in April 1897 to marry Catherine Staggi, and the couple would have five children — Julien, Lena, Rosie, Adaline and Edward.
Edward Pardini was born in Grass Valley on Nov. 25, 1901, and as a young child would peddle home-grown sweet corn to miners' wives in the community for 15 cents a dozen. At a young age, Edward Pardini would experience several health issues.
At the age of 6, Edward Pardini contracted diphtheria, and the doctor who performed a tracheotomy accidentally cut a vocal cord, leaving him with a raspy voice. When he was 25, he contracted polio and spent three years and almost all of his money at a hospital in San Francisco.
At that hospital, though, Edward Pardini met and married his nurse, now Delma Pardini, whom he later brought back to Grass Valley. Edward and Delma Pardini had two sons — David and Edward Jr.
After running Hills Flat for more than 60 years, Edward Pardini Sr. retired in 1983, leaving the family business to his two sons.
However, David Pardini would die in a tragic hiking accident in the Sierra Nevada mountains, leaving the business solely to his brother, Edward Pardini Jr.
Ed Pardini Jr. ran Hills Flat until he retired in 1990 and initially contemplated selling the company, but his children had other plans.
"I can remember sweeping the yard down at our old location when I was a little kid after hours," Jason Pardini said.
"I have just good memories from when I was young and I just kind of naturally fell into it. So we wanted to keep this in the family, and carry on the tradition that our grandfather started. We just didn't want to let it go."
In 2001, the Pardini family opened a second Hills Flat location in Colfax, and in 2007 the company's Grass Valley store was relocated just down Idaho Maryland Road to its current location in the 300 block of Railroad Avenue.
Jeff, Kennan and Jason Pardini now run the bulk of the Hills Flat business, along with their sister, Deborah Caddy, and her husband, Dave Caddy.
Although the business has stayed in the family for three generations, the Pardini brothers are not expecting their children to join the business in the future, unless they want to.
"I have three boys, and I'm not pushing them in any direction right now other than getting a solid education, and furthering that education into college," Jason Pardini said.
"If they choose to come back and have interest in the business, I will support it, but I'm not pushing them to get into it. But it's been a great business for our family, so it wouldn't hurt our feelings if they decided to get in and carry on."
According to Jeff Pardini, Hills Flat Lumber Co. now occupies two 6-acre sites and offers a full line of hardware supplies, which includes building materials, composite decking, full service custom door shop, windows, millwork, siding, plumbing, electrical, paint, rentals, cabinets and hard surface flooring.
But while the business has grown and changed tremendously, the Pardini brothers are still dedicated to continuing their grandfather's legacy of providing high standards of service and quality to the local community.
"Our ties, our roots are deep here," Kennan Pardini said.
"We've built up a reputation for taking care of people, and we give back to the community that gives to us. That's the difference between some of the big businesses and us. We give back a lot to the community, and the community's been great with us, too."
For more information, go to http://www.hillsflatlumber.com/
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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