Not long after the pandemic started, many supply chains were interrupted, which caused the prices of some goods and services to skyrocket. One of those was lumber. Between a lack of stock and an increased demand from do-it-yourselfers who were stuck at home during lockdowns, lumber prices went through the roof.
Well, if you’re still interested in that do-it-yourself project, now is a great time to head to Mendo Mill. I spoke with owner Mike Mayfield, and he let me know that prices for traditional construction lumber have not only dropped, but as of late September, are at a 10-year low. He noted that when prices spiked, consumers stopped buying and that sent a clear message to his suppliers: either drop your prices or don’t expect much in the way of sales. The prices of other building materials such as plywood and PVC have softened a little, too, but they have not dropped like lumber.
Mike has been in the lumber and hardware business his whole professional life, and he believes markets are resilient. Sometimes a major interruption like a pandemic will cause a temporary blip, but markets tend to find a way to meet consumer demand. New suppliers come up with new methods or products, and in response, old suppliers shift their practices in hopes of maintaining market share.
One example of this is the development of a new plumbing material, flexible hoses that do not require soldering at the joints like copper and that do not rust like the old, galvanized piping. Plumbers who have been in the business thank their lucky stars for this development.
When I interviewed Mike to learn about the cost of building materials, I found myself being drawn into his family’s arrival in Mendocino County and how Mendo Mill came to be. For those of you who don’t know about Mendo Mill’s long history in Mendocino County, let me tell you a story.
In 1944, Mike’s grandfather and great uncle, John and Ross Mayfield (identical twin brothers), finished their military service after WWII. After scouting out the situation in California, Ross told John they should go west.
They landed on a plot of land on Orr Springs Road where they opened a lumber mill. In the 1950s, after birthing seven children, John’s wife got involved and encouraged John to open a retail outlet on North State Street in Ukiah where Mendo Mill still serves the community today. The brothers sold the lumber mill and John moved to Ukiah. In the early 1960s, John’s son (Mike’s dad), Joe, graduated from Humboldt State University and bought Mendo Mill from his father.
In 1972, Joe was the visionary who transformed Mendo Mill from a lumber retailer to a home center, the first of its kind in Ukiah. During the next few decades, as small, local hardware stores in Lake and Mendocino County struggled to make it, Mendo Mill purchased the assets and made sure local people had access to personable, knowledgeable staff and high-quality goods.
In the late 1970s, Mike went away to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and after graduating from college, he worked in the lumber business. In 1989, he returned to Ukiah and in 2000, he took over the operations of Mendo Mill from his dad. Today, Mendo Mill has stores in Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Fort Bragg, and Lakeport.
Mendo Mill serves those who make their living in the construction trades as well as consumers who do their own remodeling and fix-it projects. It is one of the top ten ACE retailers in the United States. If you’ve ever talked to Mike, you know how dedicated he is to taking care of local people, both his staff and his customers. He takes pride in knowing that no matter what comes our way, whether it’s drought, wildfire, or something else, people can find what they need to safeguard their homes. He also enjoys helping people make their homes comfortable and reflect their particular style, whether that means putting in a bird feeder or adding an extra room to their house.
If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.