Being raised a stone's throw from the mill site, leaving Boundary County to pursue another career and then returning to purchase the mill from his father in 2001, Joe Neumayer's connection to the land and mill out on Cow Creek Road is palpable as he surveys the business his father started in the mid-1980s.
"We're here to offer the public an alternative and an option for high end cedar products" said Joe. "There are still customers who want high-end cedar. This area attracts a lot of retirees and there are still people who are custom building. We are starting to get a lot of rebuild jobs. We're creating our own work here." Including the mill workers, yard salesman, office staff and himself, Joe said that the mill employs 12 people. With the upcoming addition of a new twin band resaw, which will be going into production before the end of the year, Joe said that he is always looking for ways to make the operation more efficient in order to cut costs.
"We buy logs locally," stated Joe. "We haven't cut a federal log in two years. We've lived entirely off local landowners and loggers. We're small enough that we can keep our markets alive. We're running one to two days a week now and even though we used to crank out three to four loads per week, we've got enough business. We do offer the mill-direct price, which is pretty tough to beat. A lot of contractors know about us so we're doing OK."
With a specialized sawmill that focuses almost exclusively on cedar and blue pine, Joe feels that he has found his niche in the timber market, not only in Boundary County, but in the northwest.
"We are always trying to shave off our overhead expenses and trying to get the conversion factor lower so we can get the cost per board down," he said. "We can run 10,000 board feet in a day with 10 people on the mill floor. I like being small. We don't need a lot of logs. We're happy with one or two loads a week."
Neumayer Mills' drying kilns are another factor that has helped sustain the mill. Joe stressed that keeping the kilns between 100 to 150 degrees helps the wood dry slowly making for a better product. Each kiln can hold 40,000 board feet when stacked to full capacity. The in-floor heat delivers an even warmth that helps regulate the moisture content in the lumber to the desired level depending on what it will be used for.
Neumayer Mills' 20-year business partnership with Enyeart Wholesale in Smelterville is the stable foundation that has allowed the mill to remain a viable business. Supplying Enyeart with cedar lumber that is then remanufactured into siding in Kellogg has been a profitable collaboration for both companies over the years.
In addition to supplying Enyeart with cedar siding, Neumayer Mills also offers cedar and blue pine products for sale to the general public as well as providing custom sawing services.
With an extensive inventory of at least $250,000 at any given time, Chris Hutchinson, who is in charge of yard sales, feels confident about being able to meet local customer demand for cedar or blue pine. The cedar products available to the public are lumber for decking or siding, log cabin siding, beveled products and channeled siding. The popular blue pine can be purchased for paneling or tongue and groove. Customers can purchase the lumber either rough cut or finished. The mill also carries a substantial amount of number four grade wood that is available for projects that don't need to be real fancy. Whether customers want one board or a pickup load, the number four grade is in demand to make things such as chicken coops, signs or anything that doesn't need to be made from high grade lumber. The mill also offers custom cut beams as well.
Joe Neumayer is confident that the market will pick up and will continue to provide the mill he loves with the work he enjoys doing.
"We love the business and the people here," he concluded. "Just to be able to live in this community is great. We love living in this area."
Neumayer Mills is located at 4405 Cow Creek Road. For yard sales, call Chris at 267-2754.