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WALLY'S WORLD: Latest in the Morris clan knows his lumber
Last week I offered a capsule review of three generations of the Morris family in Black Diamond. The patriarch, Jack Morris, beget Evan Morris who, along with his other business enterprises, founded TRM Lumber with his nephew in 1969. Today, TRM is owned and operated by Evan’s son, John Morris.
I sat down with John last week. He’s a good-looking, quick-witted, 44-year-old fellow who knows a hell of a lot about the lumber business and, needless to say, we talked about TRM and his history with the place. He said the letters TRM were the initials of the original investors but, as time passed, the company ownership changed. Be that as it may, the name wasn’t changed. Instead, what the letters stood for changed. So TRM now stands for “Timber Related Materials”.
For practical purposes, the business has always been at Four Corners, a block or so off state Route 169 beside the Kent/Kangley Road. When the company first opened, Four Corners didn’t amount too much. There was a junkyard and a tavern, kitty-corner from one another, and nothing else. Of course, I can remember those two places, which means, as Gabby Hayes used to say, I’m not a “young whipper-snapper.” (In fact, anyone who can remember Gabby Hayes is probably a bit too old to be accurately described as middle-aged.) Somewhere along the way these two original businesses were torn down and then, through the years – especially the last 20 years – Four Corners turned into the suburban shopping center we know today.
John started working in the lumber yard at a relatively young age; that is, when he was in elementary school, his father assigned him certain daily chores he was responsible for. He sometimes ate lunch with the employees, thereby eavesdropping on their conversations and their rather adult language. John watched them smoke cigarettes and, even though he was a little too young to know what was going on, he realized they occasionally smoked something beside tobacco. When he was in middle school and high school, he became a part-time employee, earning a paycheck. He started managing the operation in 2000 and took over ownership when his father passed away in 2006.
A few years ago, Fred Meyer showed interest in building a store on his property and the real estate fronting SR 169. John and his sisters leased Freddy’s the land and John moved his lumber business a half-block further down Kent-Kangley. (Fred Meyer started construction several months ago and the store is scheduled to open around Easter.)
John used the income from the leased land to build a new lumber yard at its new location. And what a splendid lumber yard it is. Much of the wood is sheltered and stored in a large warehouse. The lumber that’s stacked outside is at least protected by a roof. The main office has a supply of carpentry tools for sale and, though the offering may not be as large or varied as that found in Lowe’s or Home Depot, in general it appears to be quite adequate. Since I encourage everyone to support our local merchants whenever possible, I’d point out TRM has much more lumber than the big-box, giant corporations. And you don’t have to drive nearly as far.
John and his wife, Coral, have been together for 20 years. They have two daughters – Cayla, a Green River student, and Hannah, a high school junior.
John also is an ordained minister. I was surprised to learn he secured this title off the Internet after completing some online paperwork and clicking a few keys. In the past couple of years, I’ve attended two weddings he has officiated and it was quite delightful to see the reverend enjoy a drink or two and demonstrate a few smooth dance moves to some country-rock with the brides.
That’s reason enough to buy your lumber at TRM.