Quality products and long-term relationships are top priorities at Virginia lumber company.
STUART, Virginia – In some instances, when a company does so much, it might be easier to just tell what it doesn’t do. However, that would not do justice to Hopkins Lumber Contractors, Inc., a multi-faceted company located in Stuart, Virginia. With a population of approximately 1400, Stuart sits in the west, south-central part of the state in Patrick County. The company is owned and operated by John Hopkins and his son John Jr.
Wesley Hopkins began sawmilling with a portable Meadows mill and a D2 Cat dozer. He moved from tract to tract to cut and saw timber. “At an early age, I began logging with my father; it was manual cutting. I cut timber and logged with a D4 Cat and Dad ran the portable mill,” recalled John. After completing his education at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, John and his father partnered up.
“One of the first initiatives I took on behalf of the business was to convince my dad to get a stationary mill and put it under roof, so we could saw in any kind of weather,” explained John. Hopkins Lumber officially started in 1974. In 1994, after graduating from Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia, John Jr., eager to use his business management skills, joined the company. Wesley Hopkins passed away in 2006 after spending most of his life in the business.
“The product focus has changed since our company’s inception. We initially purchased logs and sawed furniture lumber until 1994. We then built a new scragg mill focused primarily on industrial lumber,” John told us.
“Today we complete the entire process; we purchase land with standing timber, we purchase tracts of timber, and we buy gatewood logs. We log, transport, cut, and deliver the lumber to our customers. Everything we sell is industrial lumber. Having control over the entire process, from standing timber to a finished product, provides quality control, which, in turn, ensures customer satisfaction and establishes long-term relationships,” said John Jr.
“Our customers have come to expect a quality product from our operation of 70 employees,” he added. Hopkins Lumber continues to belong to the Virginia Forest Products Association and the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association. Both organizations are committed to quality approaches and products.
Hopkins Lumber produces 45-50 million board feet of originating and remanufactured lumber annually. Most of the logs that the company saws are cut by its own logging crew or by private contractors. “In 2015, we added a logging operation to support our log inventory and to be able to cut our company’s tracts of timber,” said John. “There is an inflow and outflow of raw material according to the requirements of customers. For instance, some species of logs are sold to specialty mills, and, in certain cases, Hopkins Lumber buys material; we buy a lot of pine and hardwood cants,” explained John.
“Most of the job sites that our loggers work are within a 50 mile radius of Stuart,” said John, Jr. “We run our own Kenworth trucks, as well as contracting for approximately 60% of product deliveries.” Great Dane flatbeds, ITI live bottoms and ITI chip trailers are part of the fleet that delivers to customers along the middle of the East Coast.
The company is supported by a big roster of equipment: Ligna scragg, Nicholson debarker, Jocar gang, Brewer gang, edgers, and a Fulghum chipper. “The chips from the sawmill are sold to paper mills and to biomass fuel producers,” said John.
Logging depends on a Tigercat 724E feller, Tigercat 720 Skidders, a Trelan chipper, and Barko loaders. A Barko 495B loader is the most recent equipment purchase. “We operate five of these loaders and have found them to be dependable machinery,” said John.
The Barko loaders, made by Barko Hydraulics, LLC in Superior, Wisconsin, are engineered and designed to be reliable performers. John purchased the company’s newest Barko 495 loader, fitted with a Robotec 4552 HD 504 grapple, from Jewell Machinery in Rocky Mount, Virginia. “We have worked with Jewell Machinery for about four years,” said John. “I became acquainted with the company many years before my first purchase. Steve Joyce, a sales and service expert, contacted me to discuss options for a loader that would fit the need at the Critz mill,” added John.
Steve Joyce told us about how he came to know John and Hopkins Lumber. “I met John Hopkins, Sr. in 1997 when I was working for Tidewater Equipment. On a cold call to the Critz sawmill, I asked about the possibility of selling him some equipment. We weren’t able to do business at that time, but later on, I was working at a John Deere dealership and started doing business with him.”
John’s interest in Barko equipment and Steve’s move to Jewell Machinery put the two in touch again. “In the past few years, I have had the pleasure of doing business with both John and John, Jr.,” said Steve.
“Several purchases have been made from Jewell Machinery in the last four years,” said John. T”hey include a Pitts KB48DHL trailer with crawler suspension and hydraulic landing, a CSI 264 Ultra Delimber, and a CSI DL4400 Revolver with an extended slasher saw. We have found our relationship with Jewell Machinery to be very satisfactory. The staff is well-trained and very knowledgeable about the equipment that they sell. They strive to answer questions promptly and efficiently,” said John. “Steve Joyce is well-trained, maybe too well-trained, since he has managed to talk us into several purchases!” John added with a laugh.
From Steve’s perspective, working with customers stands as an endlessly rewarding experience. “Visiting with customers and hearing their needs has always been something that I love to do for sales and service,” he said. Helping a customer find the best match in a machine is important to Steve, so he looks at the configuration at a customers’ site and aims to understand goals. “Although not delivered yet, the latest machine we have sold to Hopkins is a Barko 495 SE. It is a stationary, electric machine to feed the log deck at their new mill. It will be a good fit to the new mill.”
Dedication to their customers is a common thread for Hopkins Lumber Contractors and Jewell Machinery. Jewell Machinery is an authorized stocking dealer for Barko Hydraulics and Pettibone. The company offers a wide range of parts both in store and online at www.forestryparts.com and also specializes in self-propelled loader carriers.
Today, John Sr. focuses mostly on logistics. “I participate more in the management of the business. However, I still enjoy being a part of every aspect of the process,” said John. So, what doesn’t Hopkins Lumber do? “Kiln dry,” answered John. “We have to buy kiln-dried when customers want it, so we will probably begin to do it ourselves soon.”
When the father and son manage to get time away from work at Hopkins Lumber, they both like to hunt, fish, ride four wheelers, golf, and most importantly, spend time with their families.