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Our History

Welcome to JAY-K Independent Lumber, Corp. JAY-K Lumber 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.

Joe Kelly
Founder, Joe Kelly

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 Lumber. We were originally located on Seneca Turnpike near the present main entrance to Sangertown Mall. The name JAY-K Lumber 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 Lumber was not a member of a monopoly or combine, most of 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 in the 1930s as a public swimming pool called Seneca Springs. 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 Lumber 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 our employees, members of the Teamsters and Carpenters Unions picketed JAY-K Lumber 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.

Kevin, Stephen and Christopher Kelly
Kevin, Stephen and Christopher Kelly

On November 11, 1972, Joseph Kelly died and was succeeded by his three sons, Kevin, Christopher and Stephen, as officers of JAY-K Lumber. 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 expansion of our kitchen showroom.

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 1980s, 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 the late 80s, two important events left their mark on JAY-K Lumber. 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 Lumber is today.

Throughout the 90s, JAY-K Lumber 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 in 1997 we purchased Utica Paint and integrated it into the store.

Dean and Jonas Kelly

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

In the autumn of 2011, due to flood damage, the New Hartford Cabinet Store was relocated to the main store with a new showroom. The Cabinet Department continues to enhance the shopping experience of our customers.

We are always improving our customer experience. In recent years, we have remodeled our millwork, cabinet, bath/plumbing, power tool, paint, and lighting showrooms. We have also enhanced our delivery capabilities with boom- and forklift-equipped delivery vehicles, and implemented new design software in our decking and cabinet departments.

JAY-K Lumber celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012 with year-long employee activities, customer events, and promotions. An 80th anniversary celebration in 2017 featured community events and employee-generated support for Feed Our Vets, the United Way, and Thea Bowman House in Utica.

In July 2015, after a brief illness, Kevin Kelly passed away. Kevin, along with his brother Chris, was instrumental in making JAY-K Lumber the leading independent home center it is today. Kevin Kelly was well known in the community for his philanthropic endeavors, especially his work on the fundraising and building of the New Hartford Public Library.

Today, top-quality products and personal and professional service continue to be the mainstays of JAY-K Lumber. Contractors depend on us for high-quality products, and retail customers depend on our expert staff for friendly and informed 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.

JAY-K Store

As we celebrate more than 80 years of community service, we remain grateful for continuing community recognition. In 2006, JAY-K Lumber was once again honored as “Business of the Year” by The Utica Area Chamber of Commerce, and in November 2008 the CNY Retail Lumber Dealers honored JAY-K Lumber as the Retailer of the Year. In 2009, we received the Ursula Flagg Award for Excellence in Human Resource by the Mohawk Valley Society of Human Resource Managers. During 2014, Jonas Kelly served as Chairperson of NRLA (Northeast Regional Lumber Association), and in October 2014 was named Lumber Person of the Year by the Central New York Retail Lumber Dealers Association.

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

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