A century in business: Hills Flat Lumber Co. marks 100 years
Asked about Hills Flat Lumber Co. completing 100 years in operation, co-owner and CEO Jeff Pardini said, “We try to be innovative and different.”
The business currently operates two locations: one in Colfax and the other at 380 Railroad Avenue in Grass Valley.
Edward Joseph Pardini, Sr., co-founded the business in 1921, and went on to run the store with his sons, Ed Jr. and David, for some time prior to his death in 1983, according to Jeff Pardini.
“I started out sweeping the floors, and then moved on up into driving the trucks and doing deliveries, and stuff like that,” said Ed Pardini, Jr. on his beginnings at Hills Flat Lumber, adding that his own children followed a similar trajectory with the business.
Ed Pardini, Jr. retired from the business in 1990, at age 49, passing the business’ reigns on to the generation currently operating it. “I retired in 1990, because these guys were doing great,” he said.
His wife, Sandy Pardini, also worked with the business’ bookkeeping for some time, and says that despite Ed Pardini, Jr.’s retirement, “He’s always available.”
The current generation includes Ed Pardini, Jr.’s sons, Jeff Pardini as CEO, Jason Pardini working in hardware and commodities purchasing, and Kennan Pardini in lumber and plywood purchasing. His daughter, Deborah Caddy, has also worked in the business, and her husband, Dave Caddy, is its operations manager.
Making a fourth generation involved in the business, several of Ed Pardini, Jr.’s grandchildren have also taken on jobs with Hills Flat Lumber.
GROWTH OVER THE YEARS
Discussing Hills Flat Lumber over the years, Jeff Pardini emphasized the pivotal role played by the family’s close friend and “right hand man,” Manuel “Chick” Cicogni.
Cicogni, he said, worked for the business for 50 years and six months, only taking a break once, when he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and saw the flag raised at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The business began selling only lumber, securing orders from the Idaho-Maryland and Empire mines in the decades following its 1921 opening, as well as selling lumber for flumes to the Nevada Irrigation District.
From there, the business expanded into hardware, at one point opening a Grass Valley store on Idaho-Maryland Road, where it added to its inventory as well as offering equipment rentals.
The business added a Colfax location in 2001, which added a nursery, door and window showroom, and a wider selection of hardware, then moving its Grass Valley store to its current location in 2007.
According to Pardini, the final sale at the Idaho-Maryland location — which is now used for storage — was made by Cicogni, who then made the first purchase from Ed Pardini, Jr. at the then-newly opened store on Railroad Avenue.
From breaking ground to opening the new Grass Valley store in 2007, said Jeff Pardini, 11 months and two weeks passed, an “impossible” pace for the scale of the project. Hills Flat Lumber was the contractor for that project as well as its Colfax store, he said.
The facility’s features include solar and geothermal energy used for the store’s heating, cooling, and other power needs, said Pardini, in addition to a parking lot with spaces designed to fit full-sized trucks comfortably. An engineer was onsite full-time during its construction in order to ensure that rocks and geo-grid were used effectively to achieve the slope of the area the facility rests on.
“They called it the seventh wonder of Grass Valley, to get that to stay where it is,” said Pardini.
At its current Grass Valley store, according to Pardini, the business has expanded its inventory further, not only offering a lumber yard, hardware, and rentals, but adding a wide stock of home appliances as well as venturing into commercial industrial sales.
The store also added a deli in 2007, and carries Carhartt brand clothing, which Pardini says is a big seller.
“We bring stuff in that people ask for, and that’s how we try to have the things people need,” he said.
RECOGNITION FROM THE CITY
“A hundred years. That’s very, very, very impressive,” said Grass Valley Mayor Ben Aguilar of the business at a July meeting of the Grass Valley City Council.
He continued, “Not many businesses can say they’ve got a hundred years under their belt, but family-owned and operated — just phenomenal.”
At that meeting, Aguilar read a proclamation on behalf of the council, which congratulated Hills Flat Lumber Co. on having reached its 100th anniversary and encouraged citizens of Grass Valley to shop local and support Hills Flat.
Hills Flat Lumber Co. has given back to the community over the years, donating lumber, supplies, equipment, time, and money to local nonprofits, schools, businesses, and individuals, the proclamation stated.
Asked earlier this month about the business reaching the 100-year mark, Sandy Pardini said, “I think it’s amazing.”
She credited the business’ longevity in part to it being “down to earth,” as well as the connection people have formed to the family members involved in it.
Ed Pardini, Jr. agreed, adding that it has also come down to a few simple factors: good service, decent quality, and working to “treat people like you’d want to be treated.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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