In February of 1892, E.J. Stearns purchased the tiny building and limited stock of the Stillwater Lumber company, then located on the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue. He started in a small way with a one-room office and no storage sheds. Adopting the slogan, “Where the Good Grades Come From”, the business was operated on the principles of good materials, convenient service and square dealing.
In 1923, E.J. Stearns asked his son Spencer to return to Hutchinson and help in the management of Stearns Lumber Co. For the next 15 years, Spencer worked with his father in guiding the business through very difficult times. Under Spencer’s leadership manufacturing operations including kitchen cabinets, boats, windows, and panelized vacation homes were added to the product line.
In 1926 and 1948 expansions of the Hutchinson yard were completed and a full line of builders hardware and paint were added to make the company truly a department store of building and modernization. Also in 1948, the fireproof building on Glen Street was erected, where Nu-Telecom now stands. For several years it was used to manufacture millwork items and cabinets. Later if housed the Stearnswood Manufacturing Division which dealt exclusively in the packaging of manufactured items for many industries in the Upper Midwest. The manufacture of boxes and crates for export became one of the major phases of the business.
Spencer’s sons, Robert and Ned, both worked with their father until his death in 1957, when Spencer’s son Robert became president of the company. By this time, the Hutchinson yard covered nearly a complete city block in downtown Hutchinson and was large enough to serve a wide trading area.
In 1959, the Stearns Lumber Co., changed its name to Stearnswood Inc. to reflect the change in business emphasis and moved to its current location at Third Avenue N.W. on land north of the river along the railroad. New buildings were constructed with two-thirds of the new location taken up by the retail building materials branch while the balance was used by the small-but-growing manufacturing division that built wooden pallets, crates, boxes and affiliated packaging.
In 1982, Bob’s son Roger became the fourth generation president of the family business and added Minnesota’s first heavy-duty corrugated fiberboard converting operation to Stearnswood’s production abilities. That ability is to custom build containers under strict quality control standards to particular specifications, often requiring cushioning foams, fiberboard, specialized hardware, and wooden bases or blocking, all designed to transport products safely.
Today, the same commitment to quality and service that E.J. had so many years ago, continues to be the cornerstone of the business. Under the direction of Corey, Bob’s youngest son and now the fifth president, Stearnswood has become one of the Midwest’s largest producers of heavy-duty, high-performance, transport packaging in wood and triple-wall corrugated.
We want to thank our founders, families, community and many employees, past and present, for the opportunity to be a vital part of the growth of Hutchinson for the last 125 years.