Tim Personius, Sales Manager and Tom Barclay, General Manager Ganahl Lumber, Torrance
As California’s oldest lumberyard, Ganahl Lumber reclaimed a piece of their industry’s past. This 10-foot band saw operated for 92 years at the now closed Fort Bragg, California mill site. Built in 1910 by Sumner Iron Works in Everett, WA, this 40,000 pound saw and its 60 foot saw blade cut countless board feet from Redwoods and Douglas Firs. Many Los Angeles area houses built between 1900 and 1950 are likely still clad in their original redwood siding, which was shipped 500 miles from the saw’s Fort Brag site.
Ganahl Lumber dedicates this monument to the pioneers of California’s lumber industry.

It seems the older I get; history becomes so important.  Through history, we can learn how past societies, systems, ideologies, governments, cultures, and technologies were built, how they operated, and how they have changed. The rich history of the world helps us to paint a detailed picture of where we stand today.  Therefore, after my recent visit and research on Ganahl Lumber Company, I was in awe and intrigued by their history and would like to share it with you.

Ganahl Lumber Company is the oldest lumberyard in all of California. In 1884, an Austrian immigrant named Christian Ganahl, and his brother Frank moved to Los Angeles from St. Louis where they were shopkeepers. Building was flourishing in Los Angeles and many people were moving west because the transcontinental railroad was offering trips to California for $1.00. Los Angeles had a growing population of 22,000, and Christian Ganahl seized the opportunity to purchase a lumber company he named the C. Ganahl Lumber Company. A few years later, Christian made a daring move and opened another lumberyard in the area. Although his “branch yard theory” was a new business idea, it took off and eventually Ganahl had several yards located throughout the Los Angeles area, including one he opened in Anaheim in 1904. Up to this point the C. Ganahl Lumber Company sold only lumber and cement. 

Two years after the Anaheim operation opened, Christian took another risk and added a new product – plywood. In 1921, Christian’s nephew, Ernest, bought a part interest in the Anaheim yard partnering with Charles Grimm, the yard’s manager, and calling it the Ganahl-Grimm Lumber Co.  Following the death of Mr. Grimm in the 1930’s, Ernest Ganahl bought out the Grimm family’s interest and changed the name to the Ernest Ganahl Lumber Company. He also made his contribution to the changing inventory of the lumber business by adding hardware to Ganahl’s growing product line.

After World War II ended, Ernest’s son, John, returned home and joined the family business. In the late 40’s there was a growing interest in millwork products, so Ganahl opened a mill division. John became involved in manufacturing cabinets for schools being built in the area. Ernest died in 1959 and John became President of the company. In 1964, John changed the name to Ganahl Lumber Company. It was always customary for the Ganahl children to spend time working in the family business. John’s sons and daughters worked at the lumberyard part-time and during summers while they were going to school. John’s son, Peter, joined the company full-time in 1968 and became the President of the company in 1973 upon the death of his father. That same year, John Jr. and his brother Andrew joined the company. Peter and John have continued their great-grandfather’s “branch theory” and have acquired other locations throughout the Southern California area in the last few decades, making the company the ten-store business it is today.

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to visit Ganahl Lumber in Torrance.  Although it was not my first visit to the location, I am continually impressed with the customer service, cleanliness, and the selection of products available each time I visit.  As I spoke with General Manager, Tom Barclay he mentioned the importance of relationships several times. Hallmarks of good business relations include trust, loyalty, and communication. The success of long-term business relations is dependent upon trust, as it can foster employee satisfaction, co-operation, motivation, and innovation.  “We continually focus and look at ways in which we can enhance and make a contractors experience easier.  This experience can include saving the contractor time by having materials pulled in advance, establishing a relationship with them, or by making their overall experience simpler as the little things all add up,” commented Barclay.

Barclay, who began with Ganahl in 1980, commented that Torrance is a key location and a good hub for the company.  The accessibility to rail is also important to this location. Ganahl has a robust delivery system with 20 trucks daily, each making five stops.  If you have the opportunity visit Ganahl’s website at www.ganahllumber.com to view a video titled, ‘Always wondering what makes Ganahl Lumber so great?”’ This video illustrates the quality of care and the exceptional service that goes into the delivery of lumber to a job site.

Throughout the pandemic, Ganahl operated at full capacity as they were deemed an essential business.  “The biggest challenge for us was really the unknown.  We decided early on that we would gather information and follow the guidelines and protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  We continually shared information with our employees and kept everyone as informed as we possibly could,” stated Barclay. “We have learned throughout this process that communication is essential with everyone from our employees to our customers and to all those in the supply chain.   We continue to work with our suppliers to keep the right level of products in our inventory to keep projects flowing smoothly,” added Tim Personius, Sales Manager. Ganahl Lumber has pro-quality lumber and building supplies, they are open six days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., pre pull orders are ready in 90 minutes or less, delivery service is available six days a week and there is plenty of accessible onsite parking. The Torrance Chamber thanks Ganahl Lumber for being a member since 2017 and wishes them continued success. The relationship that Ganahl Lumber and the chamber share is truly a foundation built on an ongoing partnership within the community.

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