By Anna Van Dyke - As published in the Curry County Reporter - Summer 2003
Just 20 years ago, Gold Beach Lumber was the smallest lumber supply store in Curry County. Today, it is the only lumber supply store left in Gold Beach – with its only competition located 27 miles south, in Brookings. And, unlike the many supply stores in the county which have grown smaller and smaller over the years, Gold Beach Lumber has only grown larger.
Perhaps it’s the legacy of fathers and sons working together that have kept the business moving forward. Or perhaps it’s the focus on service and trust that the first owner – Clarence Ringer – insisted upon. Whatever the reason, though, Gold Beach Lumber has not only survived, but thrived.
With Ryan Ringer stepping into the position of Vice-President last fall in order to work alongside his father, Reed Ringer (President and owner), the legacy of Gold Beach Lumber now stands not just three – but four – generations strong.
It was 1959 when Clarence Ringer drove south along Highway 101 and found himself opening a small mom and pop’s store with his wife, Pearl. The couple had just retired from a life of logging and apple growing up near Hood River and liked the idea of the simplicity of running a country supplies store.
The store – Home and Building Supply – was located just south of Gold Beach along a little creek (Hunter Creek), at the base of a hill. The store was indeed small, as it was intended to be, and Pearl was soon selling furniture, kitchen appliances, house paints, and groceries. While his wife fulfilled the “Home” part of their business, Clarence fulfilled the “Building Supply” part.
The supplies back then, though, consisted mainly of plywood, some lumber, and cement. A single stop sign stood at the corner of their store; the stop sign would be the only thing which would remain unchanged during the next 44 years of business. Reed Ringer, though still living up north at the time, remembers stories from his grandfather’s days of owning the lumberyard.
He recalls, “Back then, he was using an Old Chevy truck for deliveries. Once, while returning from picking-up a load of lumber in Portland, his truck caught fire on the freeway near Albany. It burned everything up, including the lumber – and that was the end of his delivery truck.” Reed also recalls his grandfather making routine pick-ups from the mill in Bandon, “They’d load that truck with twice the amount of weight it was supposed to carry. It would be so heavy they’d barely be able to drive that thing back to Gold Beach. They’d creep along the highway doing about 20 mph.”
In 1972, though, Pearl and Clarence wished to retire for good. They decided not to sell the store, but let someone else take over the business so that they could move back up north. Within a year, though, the store had been abandoned and all the inventory taken. Clarence decided that perhaps it was time to finally sell the place and sent his son, Rodney Ringer, down to Gold Beach to do the job.
Reed tells the story of Rodney’s trip down to Gold Beach with a smile and a laugh, “Dad came down in the middle of a winter storm with his camper. The day he got here there was standing water inside the store building from all the rain.” Instead of selling the store, Rodney decided to clean it, restock it, and reopen it. It didn’t take long until he had the store up and running again – this time focusing more on the “Building Supplies” and less on the “Home.” Rodney’s son Ross (Reed’s brother) joined his father in the business for several years before oil called him north to Alaska. With Ross gone, Rodney began asking his other son, Reed, to come help him with the business. Reed had recently graduated from Pacific State University outside of Portland with a degree in business. Time after time Reed turned his father’s offer down.
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In 1980, Reed’s father asked his son once more to move south and join him in the lumber yard business. Reed and his wife (Chub) and son (Ryan) made a visit to Gold Beach, looked the business over, and finally said “yes.”
First, though, the old building had to go. Tearing down the original building allowed their new business – Gold Beach Lumber – to expand. For the next nine years Gold Beach Lumber would be a father-son run business. The two also owned and ran – with the help of their wives Chub and Sig Ringer – Portside Building Supply (now Western Building Supply) in Port Orford. Slowly but surely, the Gold Beach business grew . . . and grew. The lumber yard expanded and now stood on both sides of the small stop sign at the end of the street. Old buildings were torn down with new ones quickly built. The business wasn’t the only thing that grew, though – the family did as well. Reed and Chub now had two more children: Kyle and Alyson.
The father-son duo ended in 1989 when Rodney decided it was time to leave the business and son bought-out father once more. During the next decade Gold Beach Lumber would continue to grow and expand. It wasn’t until the Fall of 2002, though, that the oldest of Reed’s sons, Ryan, returned to the lumberyard – promising another father-son duo and a fourth generation of business.
Ryan graduated with a degree in Business from Southern Oregon University before taking various job offers that led him to Maryland, and then Nevada. There was something about the southern Oregon coast, though, that kept bringing him back. Ryan said, “I’d found myself coming back to Gold Beach almost every weekend even though I was living in Reno, Nevada. I love it here.”
He loved it enough that he decided to call it “home” once more and moved back to Gold Beach – this time, for good. Working alongside his father, Ryan has taken over managing the lumber yard in order to give his father time to focus on the new retail expansion. Ryan explained that his father’s “main focus over the years has been on service.” He added, “If you need something, we’ll get it to you.”
Now, with 70,000 items available on Gold Beach Lumber’s web-page (and 14,000 of those items stocked and available in the store) it is easy to see how such a promise can be kept.
It’s not the retail that keeps the business alive, though: it’s the deliveries. Reed and Ryan presently run a fleet of 5 delivery trucks, including 2 flatbed-trucks and 3 boom-trucks – quite different than the old Chevy his grandfather and father used to use. Reed still remembers the day his father bought his first flatbed truck. Reed was living up north, in Milton Freewater. “Dad bought his first flatbed the same day Ryan was born. I remember because I’d been at the hospital all day with Chub, and a bunch of friends came by to take me out for a beer and cigar. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon and I walked into the tavern in Hermiston, Oregon – and who’s sitting on the barstool, my dad! I couldn’t believe it ‘cause he’s supposed to be in Gold Beach and here he is in Hermiston! I guess he’d driven up to buy a truck and was trying to find an air-conditioned place to escape the heat. I just couldn’t believe he was sitting there and told him Well Dad, you timed it perfectly because you have a new grandson!’” Reed also remembers back to the days when deliveries weren’t run quite as smoothly as they are today.
From a mom and pops store beginning, Gold Beach Lumber now employees 24 people in all. They are open 7 days a week and have delivery trucks running north and south along the coast on a daily basis.
An old Chevy truck is no longer needed to bring lumber to the yard; 4-5 semi-trucks now do that job. The store retail have grown, the yard retail has grown, the size of the buildings and storage space has grown, the family has grown.
Standing four generations strong, ‘Gold Beach Lumber’ and ‘Ringer’ have come to be recognized as one and the same. And if Ryan has anything to say about it – that legacy will last a while longer.