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Last breath of sawdust

Bobby Poindexter locks the door at the Poindexter Lumber Company, his family's construction materials store. The family business has been run and operated by members of the Poindexter family for 111 years since its founding in 1908. Bobby and his cousin Bill Selin are the fourth generation to do so.

A ragtag collection of buildings filled with artifacts of times long past, construction equipment and a whole lot of sawdust stand on East Pleasant Street. Since its opening in 1908, Poindexter Lumber Company has continually serviced the construction needs of Cynthiana.

For four generations, members of the Poindexter family have steered the store and its operations, beginning with the founder, James Robert Poindexter. His great-grandsons, Robert “Bobby” Poindexter and William “Bill” Selin, took the helm in 1997 and 1979 respectively. However, the first cousins will be the last in their family to run the business. Bobby has no children and Bill’s son has no interest in taking over the lumber store. He works for Sherwin Williams, a paint company and major Lowe’s distributor. Lowe's is Poindexter Lumber Company’s largest competitor.

Despite the possibility of a 111-year family tradition drawing to a close, Bill and Bobby remain unfazed and upbeat. They have made few attempts to modernize, relying on hand-written order forms, downtown foot traffic and a cash register from 1927 to keep the company running. In many ways, the store operates as it has for the past century, methodical and charming. “Orders run from $1 to $500,” says Bill. “We don’t bid jobs like we once did, it's just whatever happens to come in. Years ago, the big boys took us out of that so we’re just the odds and ends people these days. That’s our niche.”

Around the company’s buildings are reminders of when business boomed. Behind the main office lie concrete stalls, where coal and concrete was delivered by train directly to the store. A long-empty stable stands nearby, once ready to send teams of horses to haul materials throughout the county. Across the street sits the warehouse, built from the the remains of a torn-down distillery, a casualty of Prohibition. Inside the office, paperwork piled high around them, Bill and Bobby work. Cheerful and easygoing, the cousins’ calm demeanor provides a stark contrast to the state of the business. “Would we sell? Sure,” says Bill. “We’re not ready to sell yet, but if it was a great enough amount of money someone offered us to sell, sure.”

Bobby echoes Bill. “It’s reality that we are the last ones to run it. I didn’t really plan on staying there (Poindexter’s) but I’m introverted. It’s security for me."

"I don't want to do it without him, and he doesn't want to do it without me." 

Michael Brown, one of the employees of the lumber company, carries a plank of wood out of the warehouse to place in a customer's car. Orders are called from the office over an intercom system to the warehouse. If that does not work, one of the cousins will walk across the street to personally deliver the order's instructions to the warehouse.
Cousins Bobby and Bill share a laugh during office hours at Poindexter Lumber Company. Bobby has worked at the company since 1997 while Bill has worked there since 1979. In many ways, the cousins complement each other, with Bill handling the books, a task Bobby cannont stand. The brotherly love the two have for each other is obvious as well. "He's as pure as the driven snow," says Bill in regards to Bobby.
Directly across the street from the company's storefront, the warehouse is a sprawling storeroom, filled with planks of wood and sawdust. The warehouse was built during Prohibition from the remains of a destroyed distillery.
In addition to lumber and wood products, Poindexter Lumber Company also sells other construction materials such as sheetrock and glass which can be cut on site. Despite their diversity of products, Bobby and Bill have seen their company's profits slow over time with the rise of big-box stores such as Lowe's and their aggressive pricing model.
Bobby and Bill look over an order sheet in the lumber company office. Despite the gradual decline in business, Bobby and Bill plan on running the store a few more years together until retirement. "Maybe we'll retire in eight years," says Bill. "When I'm 70 and he's 60."
Bobby rings up an order. Business comes in all shapes and forms to Poindexter Lumber Company. "Orders run from $1 to $500," says Bill. "Fifty percent of the days, you'll have a person or two waiting on you when you arrive. You might wait on 20 to 40 customers through the course of a day."
For the past 22 years Bill and Bobby have worked alongside each other. Having accepted that they are likely the last members of their family to run the business, they plan on leaving together. "I don't want to do it without him and he doesn't want to do it without me," says Bobby.