×

New England Forest Products in Greenfield has a new owner

  • Dave and Debbie Buxton sold New England Forest Products in Greenfield this summer after owning the lumber mill for almost 25 years. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Dave and Debbie Buxton sold New England Forest Products in Greenfield this summer after owning the lumber mill for almost 25 years. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Dave and Debbie Buxton sold New England Forest Products in Greenfield this summer after owning the lumber mill for almost 25 years. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Dave and Debbie Buxton sold New England Forest Products in Greenfield this summer after owning the lumber mill for almost 25 years. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, October 15, 2018 12:42PM

After almost 25 years as owners of New England Forest Products, Dave and Debbie Buxton knew it was time for a change.

The longtime owners have gone through a lot over the last year-plus and realized there was “more to life than this,” Dave said. They welcomed their first grandchild, Lucy, who is 15 months, Debbie lost her sister last December and their son Erik passed away at the age of 38 in April. They had already been thinking about selling the business for the last couple years and embarking on a new phase in their life.

The Buxtons had made a list of potential companies in the lumber business who they thought would be a good fit to take over.

“We really searched for what we felt was the right company,” Dave said.

They went with Kennebec Lumber, a company based out of Solon, Maine, who has been expanding and currently owns six lumber facilities. The sale of the business was finalized in July, but Dave will stay on for a year to see the transition through.

“They contacted us out of the blue,” said Dennis Carrier, president of Kennebec Lumber. “We have one mega mill (in Maine) and several small outlying mills in New Hampshire, so we were interested.”

“They were the one we really felt fit the bill. They’re a good company with a good reputation,” Dave said.

It was a bittersweet decision for the Buxtons. Their employees were like family, Debbie said, including a number of them that had been working for them since they took over the small, four-person operation in 1993. The reason they bought the facility was its potential. It was in a great location off Route 31 in Greenfield and had opportunities for expansion.

Not only did they increase the size of the mill and the volume of lumber being produced at the facility relatively quick, but added a retail showroom to the business in 2008, where they offered custom hardwood flooring, stair treads and retail lumber for local contractors. One sad piece of the sale is that Kennebec will not keep the retail space going, so the Buxtons have gotten rid of most of the inventory over the last few months, but some still remains as the sale is ongoing.

“That was a substantial part of our business,” Dave said.

In 2010, they added the ability to kiln dry its lumber, which led to even more business opportunities.

“It allowed us to expand our markets and ship overseas,” Dave said.

They used all native lumber and shipped to places around the world like the Middle East, Europe, China and Canada, while still working hard to keep their business available to the local contractors.

But the Buxtons also knew they couldn't do it forever, and with several mills they dealt with either going to auction or out of business, they didn’t want to see New England Forest Products suffer the same fate one day.

“You have to have sawdust in your blood,” Deb said.

Dave has spent his entire adult life in the timber business. He got a degree in forestry from UNH, had been involved in lumber mills for a decade before purchasing New England Forest Products, including seven years managing one.

“I always wanted to be more hands on,” Dave said.

He was fascinated with the process of growing trees to make lumber, and with owning his own business, he’d get the full scope of what goes into it. He’s been in forestry management since the 1970s, and will continue to do so as a private forester. He works with land owners and develops forest management plans to create sustainability.

“It was more satisfying to see the whole picture,” he said. “And one way or another, I’ll be involved in forestry.”

While Dave took care of the lumber creation, Deb was essentially the company’s human resources department. Which for a small, family-run business, means getting to know your employees as much more than just someone who punches a time clock.

So they’ll miss the people, but it was time to start the next chapter in their life – whatever that might be.

“It was very much a family operation,” Dave said. “And its been a very good business for us.”