For the love of lumber: Frost Lumber Company serving since 1882
When you walk into Cambron Frost’s private office at Frost Lumber Company in Thibodaux, you open a door that has witnessed 130 years of lumber industry activity.
“That door was on the first Frost Lumber Company office, a 12-foot by 12-foot building that was added on to several times,” Frost said. “They doubled it, doubled it again and added a new wing.”
Frost represents a fourth generation of his family to run the business. It is still located at the same site his great-grandfather, Henry W. Frost, opened in 1882.
A painting of the building hangs in his office, and the door displays original lettering on the glass. Generations of Frost men are displayed in photographs, running the company as a tribute to what continues to stand the test of time.
“When my great-grandfather opened the lumber yard, he was filling a need for a local outlet to sell the cypress being cut in Raceland and Donner,” Frost said. “They had a mill here as well then to cut the large pieces of wood into smaller ones.”
When Henry W. died in 1912, Cambron’s grandfather, Allen Frost, took over the business and added hardware, paint and masonry products to the inventory.
“When my father got back from military duty oversees as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army during World War II, my grandpa retired, and I was born around the same time,” Frost said. “Hopefully, my children, Allison and Matthew, will take over the business. They have both been employed here for a number of years.”
Frost credited family tradition for longevity and a business that now sells all the materials necessary to build a home.
“We always take care of customers,” Frost said. “We have a nice, comfortable showroom and offer personal service and years of family knowledge. We have experienced sales people, convenient parking and comparable prices.”
During the business’s 125th anniversary, Frost began tracking down old photographs. The black and white prints show workers standing next to large stacks of wood. Another displays the front of the first building as a horse and rider pass by. A loaded delivery truck with the Frost Lumber signage on the door is shown in yet another print.
Frost has seen many changes in the lumber industry, some he is happy with and others that pull at his heartstrings.
“One thing that helped us was the mechanization of material handling — the fork lifts are a big help,” Frost said. “We used to unload 18-wheelers by hand. We used a brick hook to unload bricks, and you could only hook 10 of them at the time.”
According to Frost, the lumber industry is currently taking a step back in time.
“Right now, pricing on lumber is actually low, the same as it was 20 years ago,” he said. “There is a lack of business, supply and demand. The demand is low, but supply is low, too. Mills are closing as well.”
Lumber selection is also changing styles of homes.
“There was once so much cypress used in building homes. Now, people are building homes out of cement,” Frost said. “It’s such a shame to see old homes torn down, especially those made of cypress. My home is 100 years old this year. It’s H.W. Frost’s old house. He only lived in it a few years before he passed away, and I’ve lived there since I bought the house 32 years ago.”
Frost’s love of cypress compelled him to salvage lumber from the original building, once located on the same piece of property as the current building, when it was torn down in 1980.
“We rented it after moving to our new building in 1969,” Frost said. “We once had a rail side, too, but that is gone as well.”
Today, business as usual at Frost Lumber is different than it once was.
“I’ve been here seven times today, doing home repairs,” said customer Pat Jackson of Thibodaux, as employee Donna Gros rang up his purchases.
As Jackson walked out, in walked Frost’s wife Dianne and the their granddaughter Emma.
“There’s the sixth generation of the Frost Lumber Company right there,” Frost said, laughing, greeting his granddaughter. As a toddler, the little lady’s work that day consisted of finding Easter eggs Aunt Allison had hidden and following a large roll of tape being spun for her delight.
Making memories on the same spot where her great-great-great-grandfather started her family’s business may just be all the encouragement the child needs to keep the family trade going for another 100 years.