History

Welcome to JAY-K Independent Lumber, Corp. JAY-K was founded in 1937, and through the decades has grown to be a full-service independent retail lumber and building materials business. We are proud of our independence and local roots, and are involved in many projects and activities that better the lives of our fellow community members. 

We are family-owned, with a history dating back to 1937, when Joseph T. Kelly and Thomas Jones, partners in companies engaged in trash, garbage collection, and street cleaning in the City of Utica, founded JAY-K. We were originally located on Seneca Turnpike near the present main entrance to Sangertown Mall. The name JAY-K originated from the initials of the Co-Founders, who had previously been in various businesses under the names of “Jones and Kelly” and “Jonelly Contracting.” The “Independent” part of the name came from the fact that JAY-K was not a member of a monopoly or combine, which showed favoritism to select groups. In 1938 the business moved to its present location, a property that was owned by Joseph Kelly and had been used as a public swimming pool called Seneca Springs in the 1930s. In 1941, Mr. Jones sold his interest in the business to the Kellys, and branch lumberyards were opened in Sylvan Beach, Clinton, and Mohawk, NY.

During WWII, JAY-K was engaged in defense work. Millwork shops in both New Hartford and Clinton made boxes for rifles produced by the Savage Arms Company and Remington Arms Company. With the return of veterans to the workforce following the war, we expanded with the purchase of larger and more diverse trucks and updated buildings to handle mechanized operations.    

In the late 40s, as the business continued to grow and provide a family environment workplace for its employees, members of the Teamsters and Carpenters Unions picketed JAY-K daily for 7 years in an attempt to organize. Outside delivery trucks were turned away, but both customers and employees remained loyal, and business continued to expand. This loyalty led to the construction of a 5,000-square-foot store in 1959. 

On November 11, 1972, Joseph Kelly died and was succeeded by his three sons, Kevin, Christopher and Stephen, as officers of JAY-K. We implemented the “drive-through” concept of retailing lumber with an improved yard and signage, becoming one of the first yards in the country to merchandise building materials using this method.

Over the next decade we continued to improve, with the installation of computers and the founding of Cabinet and Cupboards, Inc. to merchandise kitchen cabinets. Today JAY-K Cabinet, as it is now called, has stores in New Hartford and Syracuse.

Our success was threatened on August 25, 1978 when a fire destroyed the building used to store our millwork. Twelve volunteer fire companies worked diligently to bring the fire under control without any serious injuries. Throughout the night, dedicated employees cleaned and guarded the open yard. Due to wholehearted employee devotion, business continued as usual the next morning. 

Throughout the 80s rebuilding and expansion took place, as we added larger drive-through buildings, a building office, additional store space, a yard office, and a drive-up window. During this time we also extended store hours to include Sundays. During the late 80s, two important events left their mark on JAY-K. In 1988, we were voted “Business of the Year” by the Utica Area Chamber of Commerce, a recognition of which we are still proud. Sadly, in 1989 after a brief illness, Stephen Kelly passed away at the age of 45. Stephen will always be remembered for having the vision of what JAY-K is today.

Throughout the 90s, JAY-K received numerous awards, including “Retailer of the Year” by Building Supply Home Centers. We continued to make store and yard improvements, the Lighting Department was constructed, and in1997 we purchased Utica Paint and integrated it into the store. 

With the retirement of Kevin and Christopher Kelly in 2000, their sons Dean and Jonas became the third generation to oversee JAY-K. As President and Vice President respectively, they took over store leadership in 2001 and reorganized with a new management team.

Today, top quality products, and personal and professional service, continue to be the mainstays of JAY-K. Contractors depend on us for high-quality products, and retail customers depend on us for exemplary customer service. The community also depends on us for service, commitment, and financial support, as exemplified by our donations to Oneida County Habitat for Humanity, the Stanley Theater Expansion Fund, the St. Elizabeth Hospital Emergency Wing expansion, the Miracle Home and other initiatives of Faxton/St. Luke’s Healthcare, and ongoing support of the United Way and numerous other local charitable organizations. 

As we celebrate more than 70 years of community service, we remain grateful for continuing community recognition. In 2006, JAY-K was once again honored as “Business of the Year” by The Utica Area Chamber of Commerce, and also received a 2006 & 2007 FastTrack 50 Award. In November 2008, the CNY Retail Lumber Dealers honored JAY-K as retailer of the year. 

As we continue to celebrate business success, we recognize and extend sincere appreciation to our dedicated employees and valued customers!

Experience

The biggest difference you’ll find at JAY-K is the experience of our staff.

It’s the reason professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike come to us. Other stores have high turnover, and often newly trained summer employees who know only what’s printed on the back of the package. Our individual department staff average 25 years of experience, much of it doing exactly the kind of work for which you’re buying supplies. They give you the benefit of their experience every day, free of charge. When you ask a question, you’ll get the right answer, and you’ll save even more time and trouble with advice you didn’t even realize you needed.

Whether you’re fixing a small problem, doing serious remodeling, working on a custom solution, or building an entire home from the ground up, we have the answers you need. Solve any home improvement or repair problem, and save time, trouble, and money by getting the right help and the right advice, courtesy of the professionals at JAY-K.

Community Involvement

As a third-generation family owned and operated independent retail lumber and building materials business, JAY-K has contributed to our community through charitable donations since 1937. Our business gives us the opportunity to participate in the construction and decor of homes and businesses in our neighborhoods…literally contributing directly to the growth of our communities.

Our roots are firmly planted in Central New York, and we’re honored to participate in its prosperity and success. Our area is blessed with a strong philanthropic nature, ingrained in the fabric of our culture. From social services, health, and medical providers to the arts and myriad cultural experiences, there are many worthy beneficiaries of this generosity throughout our area.

We are pleased to participate in this deep tradition. We work diligently to identify those organizations best positioned to offer services in areas of community need, and ensure that our charitable contributions are used efficiently and have their greatest impact.

The success of our business stems from the success of our community. We are pleased to give back, and help make this a better place to live.