When Cumberland Lumber got its start in 1944, there was a Spivey at the helm.
Now 73 years later, Buzz Spivey continues to run the company as president and he’s been joined by his son, Justin, to make Cumberland Lumber a fourth-generation business.
“In the scope of the way business is today, it’s rare to make the jump from one generation to the next,” said Buzz. “It’s especially rare when you get to the third and fourth generation. We’ll have to see about the fifth.”
Cumberland Lumber was founded in 1944 when Herman Spivey started the company with L.C. Gilley and two other partners. It didn’t take long for the two other partners to depart, leaving the business to Spivey and Gilley.
Herman Spivey was eventually joined in the business by his son, Ray. It was in 1985 when Buzz came on board.
The Gilley family has stayed with Cumberland Lumber as well. Tommy Gilley, the grandson of L.C., currently serves as general manager.
Justin said he wasn’t sure if he would join the business in high school, but he soon determined it would be a prudent career path once he was in college.
“I was about a year into college when I realized this is what I wanted to do,” said Justin, who graduated from UT Knoxville in May. “There are areas here where I think I can improve things. Businesses need to continue to get new people and new ideas. I’m happy to be one of the new people.”
Cumberland Lumber manufactures red and white oak hardwood floors in a variety of widths. Lumber stays on the yard about six months to dry before it receives additional drying in a kiln.
The hardwood floors are primarily used in residential housing. This typically provides a reliable customer base, with the one exception being the Great Recession nearly 10 years ago.
“That’s when it really got tough,” admitted Buzz. “It wasn’t just us, but everybody in the housing industry was hurt. Our worst year in history was 2008 and 2009 was our second worst. Fortunately, we have rebounded.”
Employment has held steady around 100 in recent years. Justin said they have a solid core of workers and others who tend to circulate. With Tennessee unemployment at historic lows, Buzz said they are experiencing the same challenges as other businesses and have difficulty filling available positions.
“We’re looking at automation where possible,” said Buzz, who said it’s nice to have one of his three sons on board. “We have a good relationship and it’s great to have him.”