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Northampton Lumber goes up for sale

NORTHAMPTON - The owner of Northampton Lumber Co., a family-owned fixture in the city’s downtown for nearly five decades, intends to retire and has put the business and the Pleasant Street property it occupies on the market.

Gail LaBarge, who took over Northampton Lumber about a decade ago from her father, longtime owner Charles Paquette, is asking $1.8 million for the 47-year-old business, the 6,400-square-foot building and the 1.23 acres it sits on at 256 Pleasant St.

The property went on the market Sept. 13. The land and building are assessed at $1,059,990, according to the city’s Assessor’s Office.

Dayne Tracy, the real estate agent who is marketing the property, said LaBarge’s decision to sell is being driven by a combination of factors, including her wish to retire, he said.

LaBarge said Friday that five decades is long enough, especially considering that she started working in the store while in high school in the mid-1960s.

"I’m going to have more time to spend with my kids and grandchildren, go to Florida, and travel," she said.

The recession and the emergence of big-box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement have put a dent in the business’ bottom line, said Tracy, who worked at the store for 20 years and is LaBarge’s cousin.

"This is a Valley business and their niche was high-end materials," Tracy said. "With the economy now, the high end takes a hit."

LaBarge acknowledged that it’s taken longer to recover from this recession, but the business has "ridden the roller coaster of the economy many times over the years." She’d likely be looking to sell the business and site regardless of the economy, she said.

"It’s not strictly a business decision; it’s personal," LaBarge said.

Paquette bought Northampton Lumber in 1965 from M.C. Bailey and quickly made it a family affair. In a first-person oral history that ran in the Gazette eight years ago, LaBarge said she started out at the business part time, doing the billing, and gradually took on more responsibility after her mother became ill with cancer.

"There is always something different here," she said in the first-person account. "Whether it’s fixing or building something, you have that good feeling that you are helping somebody accomplish something,"

Over the years the family acquired more land and expanded the size of the lumber yard.

Northampton Lumber employs eight people including LaBarge. Tracy said he has received a handful of inquiries since the property went on the market - a mix of people already in the lumber business and those interested in opening a different business at the location.

LaBarge hopes to see a lumber yard business occupy the site, considering that’s what it has been for more than a century. M.C. Bailey’s store was around since the early 1900s, she said.

"There’s always been this type of business in this particular location," LaBarge said.

In addition to the big-box retailers, another family-owned business, r.k. MILES Inc., entered the western Massachusetts building supplies market in 2005 when it opened a store in Williamstown. Three years later, the Vermont company bought Rugg Building Solutions, closing Rugg’s Greenfield headquarters and a Granby store to focus on its Hatfield operation. A year ago, r.k. MILES opened a new 65,000-square-foot store on West Street in Hatfield.

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