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Women-owned lumberyard focuses on service, lasting relationships

Posted on 25 July 2017 by calvin

Hiawatha Lumber Women“Women bring a unique vision to our business,” observed Jan Siwek (left), who owns Hiawatha Lumber Company with sisters-in-laws Pat Siwek (center) and Lisa Siwek. They purchased the lumberyard in May 2016, and have recently finished remodeling the hardware store and showroom. (Photo provided)

Three sisters-in-law purchase Hiawatha Lumber, remodel, increase inventory, and add specialty products


It is rare to find a women-owned lumberyard, but Longfellow neighborhood boasts of one.

Long considered a male- dominated industry, the lumber and building materials business is featuring more and more women in prominent sales, marketing, human resources, management, and ownership roles. Females now account for a larger percentage of employees in the lumber industry than ever before as workplace demographics continue to evolve and become more diverse.

When the 70-year-old Hiawatha Lumber Company (3233 E. 40th St.) was sold last year, it was purchased by three women with deep roots in the lumber industry.

“Women bring a unique vision to our business,” observed Jan Siwek, who owns the company with sisters-in-laws Pat Siwek and Lisa Siwek.

“Our focus on personal service, quality products, and lasting relationships carries on a tradition that seems lost in our industry,” said Siwek. “We focus on the customer, not the bottom line.”

Option for those who like to shop in their neighborhood
One of only three independent lumberyards in the Twin Cities, Hiawatha Lumber Company is a full-service lumberyard with nearly two acres of construction, structural and exterior lumber and building products.

In addition to an extensive assortment of high-quality lumber, the lumberyard sells Marvin windows and doors, millwork, hardware and building materials. Hiawatha Lumber Company also offers delivery and cutting services.

“Providing an exceptional offering of quality brands like Marvin, Integrity, Acclimated, Heritage, Teal, SmartSide, Prestige, Paslode, GRK, Milwaukee, etc. help us focus on the customer’s real goal: a comfortable home to enjoy with their family,” stated Siwek. “Our experts can gain the trust of our customers by listening to their desires and offering great choices of product without a song and dance.”

Hiawatha Lumber JM Skoglund“Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a general contractor, we have quality materials for your small or large projects,” remarked general manager Jon Skoglund (photo left provided), who has worked at Hiawatha Lumber Company for over 34 years.

“We provide an option for people who like to stay in their neighborhood and shop locally, and get the type of customer service that isn’t always available in bigger stores.”

Hiawatha Lumber specializes in hard-to-find millwork from the 1900s. “In most cases, standard-size windows and doors don’t fit the homes in our neighborhood, so it’s beneficial to our customers to be able to buy products that not only are custom fit to their homes, but will last,” stated Skoglund.

“Our staff has years of service in the industry, so we can offer expert advice and support to those who need it. Although big-box stores may have lower prices and larger inventories, we have higher-quality lumber, and we can easily custom order products for our customers.”

History of Hiawatha Lumber
Hiawatha Lumber TruckIn 1900, Minneapolis was the leading lumber market in the world, and the city was home to scores of sawmills and lumberyards.

Photo right: Hiawatha Lumber began by selling chicken coops to customers that were personally delivered by the owner. The owner’s son, Denny Gustafson, took over in 1964 and operated the lumberyard for over 50 years. (Photo submitted)

Before 1930, the lumberyard along the railroad at 40th and Dight was known as Berg Lumber. The building sat vacant during the depression until 1940, when it became Hiawatha Lumber.
Hiawatha Lumber began by selling chicken coops to customers that were personally delivered by the owner.

The owner’s son, Denny Gustafson, took over in 1964 and operated the lumber yard for over 50 years.

For decades, Hiawatha Lumber Company flourished. New homes, basement finishing, garages, and remodeling were hot, and the 1960s and 1970s were boom times for the lumberyard and the neighborhood.

“With the troubled economy, 2008 was a hard time for us, but with loyal customers and cooperative suppliers, we were able to weather the storm while many other lumberyards closed as a result of the economic downturn,” recalled Skoglund.

In May of 2016, the new owners immediately doubled or tripled the in-stock inventory, and reduced prices by 20-30 percent.

Then they set about on their own construction project in the winter of 2017, remodeling the hardware store and showroom in the winter of 2017 to showcase products, specifically Marvin and Integrity Windows and Doors.

Refocused and more diverse
“Refocused on quality products and a bigger and more diverse inventory, Hiawatha Lumber Company has a new attitude of excellence, affordability, and creativity in our products,” said Siwek.

A grand re-opening was held in June. “We had a great turnout, and it was nice to see our customers and get in touch with our neighbors,” said Skoglund.

Customers like the remodeling they’ve done, he pointed out. Plus, the original sign from the 1940s on the front of the building that was unearthed during the renovation is a big hit. Also, customers like the variety and quality of products that are now being offered.

“If you haven’t visited us in a while, you should stop in,” encouraged Skoglund. “We have a new look with a lot of new products, and we’re right in the neighborhood.” More at

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