Tradition at Barney & Carey

We are certainly proud to be celebrating Barney and Carey’s 100th anniversary since opening on the banks of the Neponset River, Milton, in 1922. It was the former site of the old Neponset Coal Co. I found the original permit and plans for the deep water docks, dated 1897. As the coal had long been delivered, millions of board feet of lumber from Maine and the Maritime Provinces came across these docks, until the early 1950’s. The construction of the Southeast Expressway included bridges that were not high enough to allow the passage of the lumber schooners. We have many actual photographs of the schooners and streamers, on display at our Avon facility.

Always under family ownership, the company grew into one of the largest lumber retailers in greater Boston. It was well run at the hands of Harry Carey, Jr., the last of the family lumbermen. As a customer, I knew Mr. Carey to be a good businessman and a great human being. By the mid 1970’s, Mr. Carey was taken by cancer, leaving his wife Harriett to run the business. I had always dreamed about owning Barney & Carey. One thing led to another, and I wound up buying it from Mrs Carey in 1978.

Since then, the company has enjoyed prosperity and brutal downturns as well. We had many locations, including Brookline, Jamaica Plain, Milton, Quincy, Freetown, and Sharon. I sold off the remaining properties, opening in Sharon in 1995. This was the essence of a local lumber yard, where customers hung around to shoot the breeze in front of the wood stove. I ran it with a few long time employees, and we had a great run for over 20 years!

The opportunity arose to build six townhouses at the site. I got all the approvals and permits, and had about a year to remove the lumber yard. I considered looking for yet another location, and also just liquidating and closing the doors, seven years before the company’s 100th anniversary. Neither option was appealing to me. I had no family interested in it, and the horror show of finding a location and moving an entire lumber yard at age 71 was irrational. I thought about liquidating, but I just couldn’t do it. I had become too entwined with the company to let it go.

I then decided to explore taking on partners. I had a tenant, Dovi Hirsch, whose woodworking shop would also be displaced. I knew him well, as I did my friend and real estate partner, Ben Pinkowitz. We negotiated a sale of one third of the stock to each of them. It has been a good solution to a tough problem. My father used to say, “Take care of your business, and it will take care of you.” Barney & Carey has proved him right!

Mrs. Harriet Carey died in 2021 at the age of 94. She had been in a nursing home, but I stayed in touch with her daughters, who said their mother was very happy that the company was healthy and continued Barney & Carey’s 100 years of excellence!