Panther Valley Lumber closing doors after 42 years
Like a contractor building a home, Panther Valley Lumber owner Bob Davidovich constructed his business from the ground up with an attention to detail.
After 42 years, he’s finally ready to move on to his next project - retirement.
Davidovich recently announced he will close his business, which has been a reliable source of building materials and building advice. A liquidation sale is underway and will wrap up in the coming weeks.
“I had the privilege of doing what I wanted to do, and enjoying what I was doing. I always liked the challenge of doing something different each day. And I loved the people,” he said.
Davidovich made the difficult decision to close the lumberyard and sell the building after he was unable to find someone willing to buy and continue the business.
He and his father, Leo, founded the business in 1979. Bob Davidovich always preferred the idea of retail to working in a factory. Building materials were a natural fit because he spent years learning from Leo, a contractor by trade.
They constructed the building on the grounds of another lumberyard which had burned down several years before.
In the beginning, Bob took over the contracting business while Leo minded the store. Eventually, the store took off and became Bob’s full-time job.
“I guess there was a need in the area and we filled it,” he said.
For years, the business mainly sold lumber and building materials. But seeing the competition from big box stores, he adapted. He constructed an addition on the building, and added a full line of hardware. He knew he could provide something the boxes couldn’t - a convenient location.
“I had to be the Turkey Hill of hardware and lumber. I went a lot heavier into hardware, which was a good move,” he said.
Another edge over the big box stores was the building knowledge. If a customer had a question about what materials were needed to complete a job, Davidovich could share his experience as a contractor.
“If they didn’t know how to hook up that faucet, they were always able to get advice and the knowledge here to get the job done,” he said.
The closing of Panther Valley Lumber will create a void in the area for contractors, and anyone doing projects.
George Krajnak stopped into the shop on Tuesday to buy some items from the liquidation sale.
“There’s going to be nowhere to get lumber. It’s going to be a big loss to the community and the contractors,” he said.
In addition to the convenience of the lumberyard, they’re also losing some familiar faces in Davidovich and employees like longtime manager Pat Swartz.
“People have been coming in, wishing us well. They’re going to miss us very much,” said Swartz.
Lansford kids will miss George, the shop’s orange tabby cat.
Small-town lumberyards like Panther Valley Lumber are a dying breed. Davidovich recalled that when the store opened, Jim Thorpe and Lehighton all had multiple lumber yards which have since closed.
“All my neighbors are gone. I’m like ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ here,” Davidovich said.
At age 69, he is ready for retirement. He’s looking forward to visiting his grandchildren and taking hunting trips across North America.
For now, he is overseeing the liquidation of the store. Anyone who comes into the store from now is entered into a drawing to receive a 70-inch TV and other prizes.
He’s already lined up a buyer for the property. After the sale ends, he’ll turn over the keys to the building where he spent his career constructing a business.
“It’s sad. But I got to do it. I got to live the dream,” he said.