NORTH KINGSTOWN — Wickford Lumber closed its doors Monday night around 5:30 p.m. and it does not appear they will be reopening for business, according to longtime employee Robert Silva.
“Nobody contacted us at all,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon in between taking condolence calls from friends and customers. “It’s strange.”
Silva, an employee for the last 12 years, said the business employed about 15 people who are now out of work. He said the owners did not give out any information about receiving final paychecks or if employees would receive any severance packages.
The business had been struggling during the down economy, according to Silva, who was hesitant to blame the opening of the Home Depot on Ten Rod Road in 2000 on the decline in business.
“We’re just like everyone else,” he said. “We figured something was going to happen.”
In her 42 years working at Wickford Lumber, Mary Sherman served as employee, manager, treasurer and president of the company after receiving ownership shares. As with many others around town, Sherman learned of the news Monday as word spread quickly of the longtime business’ closing.
“I’m very sad,” Sherman said. “That place was my life. I was there 40, 50, 60 hours a week mostly. Things were good, it was running well, it had money when I left.”
She said she was fired on Dec. 23, 2009.
Like Silva, Sherman said the Home Depot didn’t kill business at the local lumberyard.
“People still like that one-on-one help,” she said. “They like having that knowledge. When I was there we had like 300 years of knowledge amongst our employees. Most of them had been working there for 20 to 30 years.”
Another person upset by the news of the store’s closing was Sherman’s granddaughter, 11-year-old Kassidy Casey, who remembers visiting her grandmother at work, playing in the office and helping the customers and employees.
“I was sad,” she said, when asked what her reaction was to learning about the closing Monday.
According to town property records, the land and buildings at 434 Tower Hill Road are assessed at $1.05 million. Wickford Lumber Co. has owned the property since 1976 and, according to the Secretary of State’s corporate database, the company’s president is listed as Lucille Gautieri-Figliuzzi of Johnston. No phone number was available on 2013 filing documents, and employees declined to give out ownership’s contact information.
According to the company’s website, “The site on which Wickford Lumber sits has played an important role in North Kingstown’s history. It was the original depot stop for the Newport/Wickford railroad line, and passengers going on to the beach via the Seaview line all stopped here. In the 1940s the site became a primary lumberyard for the area, and in 1968 the name was changed to Wickford Lumber Company.”
The website also touts that Silva’s “woodworking know-how has delighted many Wickford Lumber customers,” something he said he is going to miss.
“You hear so many complaints about big box stores and how they are impersonal,” he said. “People like to have that personal touch. Besid es being good for business, it’s good to have people working that care about other people.”
Reporter Chris Church can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.