I am feeling exceptionally happy for the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having as I take the long haul down to Weymouth, NS.
As I approach the mill, it looks a little different than the last time I had visited. The forestry sector has had a rough few years and our mills are no exception to that. As you might have heard, this summer in July, Lewis Moulding’s sawmill had a fire. Although this would be seen as extremely challenging, especially for a business in a sector that has seen little to no support as of late, the Lewis’s have not cracked. They have approximately 40 employees back to work and are beyond optimistic of where their future may go.
I walk into the familiar building and I am met by multiple friendly faces. Jamie, the General Manager of Lewis Moulding’s and his father, Stewart, take me for a little tour of the “new” set-up. I am amazed by what they have been able to accomplish in the short amount of time between the fire and my visit.
After my tour, I step into Jamie’s office and ask Stewart how he got into forestry.
“Well, my Dad had a firewood business when I was four years old, so since then” Stewart says. “In 1950 he was approached by Bowater after hurricane Edna to use blown down materials. They estimated 700 million board feet of timber on the ground so my father got a debarker and chipper and grew the business.”
I turn to Jamie and ask him the same question.
“Well, he was born on July 3rd” Stewart chimes in. “So, nine months before that.”
Jamie adds, laughing “That is very true. I was the youngest and the only boy so I spent a lot of time with Dad at the mill. I was always mesmerized by it. I was my Dad’s shadow for the better part of 20 years.”
“It’s just always been in our family” Stewart says smiling. “For example, my father never let me have a bicycle because it was too dangerous but he would let me play at the mill.”
I ask Stewart if he always wanted to be in the sawmilling business.
“Yes, I did but I did explore other avenues” he responds. “I graduated in 1964 and stayed at the mill for a year but then went to Acadia for sciences for a year. After that I went to Maritime Christian College and joined the ministry. But in 1972 my Dad wanted to get out of the lumber business so myself, my brother-in-law and a friend of mine started Lewis Lumber Company.”
I ask how long Stewart was in Nova Scotia for.
“I was very hands on in the business for 7 years” he says. “Something that has always been very important to me and will continue to be is added value. It has always been more than just milling to me; so we actually got into the casket making business as well. In 1979 I moved back to PEI and became the President of the Maritime Christian College. I did that for 17 years while maintaining a relationship with the lumber business here in Nova Scotia.”
I ask them when they got into the moulding business.
“We got into the moulding business in 1994” Stewart answers.
Why did you decide moulding?
“Like I said before adding value to the raw materials in our province has always been very important to me but I decided on “Lewis Mouldings” with the hope of my kids taking it over.”
Speaking of kids, I turn to Jamie and ask when he decided to get into the business.
“I moved to Nova Scotia from PEI in 2000” he responds. “I worked on the floor for a couple of years and then took on a Junior Management position until 2006 when I became the General Manager. Then in 2008 or 2009 Mark and Laurie came on and have been here ever since. Tammy, another sibling, joined us a few years later so 3 out of 4 of Dad’s kids work in the business.”
Knowing that this business has always been a part of his life, I ask him what Lewis Mouldings is to him.
“You know, it’s not that we all wake up in the morning with the burning passion to make mouldings” he says with a chuckle. “It has always been about family. There are 20+ of us to think about. We enjoy working together, we enjoy being in the industry despite all of its challenges. Our next steps to rebuilding is to rebuild in a way that is the best thing for our family.”
Taking the great opportunity for this segue, I ask Jamie if he hopes that he kids will someday take over the business.
“I would love it” he says hesitantly. “That is why it is so important to me that we effect change in our industry so that they can take over. People need to know that there are opportunities for improvement and growth just like every other industry but that we have already taken many actions that have bettered our sector. It is all about balancing the needs of demands and doing it sustainably. Our industry is optimal when it is balancing.”
I turn to both of them ready to ask my favorite question; how do you like working together.
“It has never been an issue” Stewart says immediately. “We have our disagreements for sure but we’ve never had an issue. I do have to bite my tongue sometimes and let Jamie and Laurie make the decisions because they are the best informed.”
“We truly are the best of friends” Jamie says as I choke back an “AWWWWH.”
“We have the same philosophies one hundred per cent and that has gotten us this far. I have received no better experience than the 20-30 years working with my Dad.”
Lastly, I ask what the favorite part of their job is.
“You answer first” Jamie says smiling looking at Stewart.
“Working with family” Stewart says without hesitation.
“That as well obviously” Jamie responds. “But I also really like the variety of it. I get to wear all the different hats of moulding, trucking, logging, problem solving equipment, and a business professional.”
Once again I am humbled by the wonderful people that are in our sector in this province. Nova Scotia is filled with so many passionate families that take caring for our forests to a whole new level.
Thank you to Jamie and Stewart for taking the time out of their busy schedule to meet with me and I look forward to seeing what your next new chapter will be!
For more information on Lewis Mouldings please follow these links: