Mississippi retail group buys W.T. Harvey Lumber, will keep the company’s name

150-year-old Columbus business entered bankruptcy last December

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comApril 25, 2013 

W.T. Harvey Lumber Co. has a new owner, but the 150-year-old business will keep its name.

Natchez, Miss-based Central Network Retail Group (CNRG), a firm launched in May 2011, has finalized the purchase of the Columbus lumber company out of bankruptcy, Bailey Gross, Harvey’s former president and chief executive officer, said Thursday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gross will oversee the local operation, which will include its Columbus lumberyard on 15th Street and a store on Crawford Road in Phenix City that is being updated with plans for a grand reopening by mid-May.

“The opportunity for us to partner with CNRG came along at an important time for our customers and employees,” Bailey said in a statement. “We are excited to align ourselves with a company like CNRG that is both financially sound and possesses significant experience in our industry.”

Gross is the son of the late W.E. “Bubber” Gross Jr., former owner of the company.

With the Harvey Lumber acquisition, CNRG will operate 41 home centers and hardware stores in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The upstart company has been rapidly acquiring independent hardware retailers and lumberyards throughout the Southeast.

“While we recognize that the last few years have been difficult for the W.T. Harvey business, they have also not been easy for the entire industry,” Boyden Moore, CNRG president and CEO, said in a statement. “The relationships that Bailey, his family, and Harvey employees have built with customers over the years create a perfect foundation for CNRG to make additional investments designed to improve the stores’ ability to serve the area.”

Harvey Lumber filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early December. It followed that up with a Jan. 2 filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Georgia, seeking permission to sell the company and its assets.

The lumber company, in its initial Chapter 11 filing, said the decision to file for bankruptcy protection was difficult, but necessary because of the housing market meltdown in 2008 that left many of its customers on the ropes financially. It also cited a flurry of competitors entering the market in recent years.

“The collapse of the building and housing economy since 2008 caused a decline in the demand of building material and also a number of defaults by Harvey’s customers, many of whom themselves filed bankruptcy or have gone out of business,” the company said.

The lumber and building materials supply operation was founded in 1863 by Bubber Gross’ great-grandfather, William Thomas Harvey. Wounded while serving in the Confederate army, the Talbot County resident returned to the area and began cutting timber for the railroad, which led to the company’s formation in Columbus.

Through the years, it has served single-family residential, multifamily and commercial builders in Columbus, Phenix City and the surrounding area.

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