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Third-Generation, Family Owned Business Marks 40 Years of Excellence in Hardwood Lumber Industry

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The Northern Appalachians are known for their high quality of American lumber — a rich, a diverse basket of hardwood including red oak, black cherry, hard maple, soft maple, ash, birch, hickory and poplar.

Here, experts say you’ll find some of the most beautiful hardwoods with the best grain patterns and colors in the world.

And it’s here, among the rolling hills of northwest Pennsylvania (NWPA), that you’ll find Ron Jones Hardwood Sales Inc., a family owned and operated business that prides itself as being the experts in the hardwood lumber business for the past 40 years.

Patriarch Ron Jones founded Ron Jones Hardwood Sales
Inc. in Union City, Pennsylvania in 1983. Shown here is a
photo of the original team members at the Union City
historic railroad sales office and some early promotional
materials with family members.

With headquarters and sales office located in a historic rail station in Union City and sprawling lumber yard, warehouse and dry kiln manufacturing facility in Franklin, Ron Jones Hardwood Sales Inc. is an industry leader in the sales of premium grade Northern Appalachian kiln-dried hardwood lumber. The company, which procures its lumber from a 150-mile radius of its NWPA operations, produces up to 10 million board feet of hardwoods each year, selling to lumber customers that purchase in wholesale lots including cabinet, furniture and flooring manufacturers, and distribution yards in major cities nationally and around the world.

Ron Jones Hardwood Sales’ reputation for high quality is a credit to the Joneses’ more than 100 years of expertise, as well as their strategic approach to investments in their operations, equipment and team of 35 professionals, many of whom have been with the company for 20 years or more.

Steve Jones, president and director of Domestic and Export Sales, credits his father, Ron Jones, for laying the framework that the company’s success is built upon. “We’re just taking it to the next level,” he says. “We’ve worked really hard and continually reinvent ourselves with our product mix, with the markets that we have and how we do business.”

At Ron Jones Hardwood Sales, “We are always looking for future opportunities,” Steve Jones continues. “We’re never staying static. What we do today does not mean this is what we do tomorrow. Our employees know that, and they get it.”

Proud History

Ron Jones Hardwood Sales Inc. is a true American success story. However, the road to entrepreneurship was a journey two decades in the making for founder Ron Jones.

Back in 1959, Ron had just graduated from Union City High School looking to start his career in the local lumber business — a thriving industry for the small Pennsylvania town. He set out by earning his technical and grading certification from the prestigious National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) School in Memphis, Tennessee, and returned home the following year to take a job trading lumber for Union National Furniture Company in Jamestown, New York. Before long, he was back in Union City working for wholesaler Tri-State Hardwood turned American Lumber, the largest exporter of hardwoods east of the Mississippi River.

Hired by owner and mentor Herb Ascherman, a Harvard University graduate, Jones worked his way up the ranks to become a vice president and eventually president of American Hardwood Industries, of which he became part owner. In 1976, the wholesale company was sold to then Hammermill Paper Company. It was a major milestone for Jones, who after 23 years as an executive for some of the industry’s best lumber corporations, decided to strike out on his own.

“I started my own company at 43 years old in 1983,” he recalls. “I’d asked some people, ‘What should I call the company?’ And they said, ‘Use your name. You’ve got a good reputation. Just call it Ron Jones Hardwoods.’ So that’s what I did, and I worked that wholesale company for 10 years and did very well. Then, in 1991, I started a lumber yard in Franklin.”

Now, Ron Jones is considered an industry legend with more than 60 years of experience in buying and selling American hardwoods, proud to have passed his knowledge on to both his son, Steve, and grandson, Nate Jones.

“I’m very blessed,” explains Ron Jones, “and I’m blessed to have my son and grandson in the business too.”

Next Generation

Ron Jones Hardwood Sales Inc.’s expertise and professionalism have certainly positioned the company to successfully transition from one generation to the next.

Steve Jones, now the sole owner, is a Penn State and NHLA grad (and former instructor), who has been with the company since 1989. Since that time, he has increased sales and better positioned the company, navigating China trade wars, COVID and other challenges, as both a respected leader in his industry and community.

A former Union City Citizen of the Year, Steve has served on many local and national boards, including the National Hardwood Lumber Association, Hardwood Manufacturers Association, the Hardwood Manufacturer’s Association Board, the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturer’s Board, and the American Hardwood Export Council. He also is a former chairman of the Manufacturer & Business Association Board of Governors and chairman of the Union City Community Foundation.

“Steve’s been a member and officer in every hardwood association there is, and he is making great decisions,” explains Ron Jones. “He’s well known in the industry, not just in Pennsylvania, but all over the United States, Canada and beyond. He handles his people better than anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Steve recently recruited his son Nate to become an integral part of the company after earning a dual degree in international business and marketing from Penn State Behrend in spring 2020. At the height of the COVID pandemic, Nate attended the NHLA School for a seven- week intensive, lumber inspection program before joining the family business, immersing himself in all aspects of its operations — yarding lumber, quality control, lumber grading and dry kilns. He quickly moved to the sales team, as home improvement projects, such as flooring and molding, drove skyrocketing demand for American hardwood lumber in the COVID era.

“It was such a hyperexcited time, but we knew Nate could handle it,” explains Steve Jones. “There was just so much coming at us.”

Now, each generation of the Jones family is leaving their mark on the business.

“I think Steve and Ron are great role models,” adds Nate Jones. “We are very different people, and my leadership style will be different than theirs, and that’s OK. We’ll keep things going and keep innovating with slow steady growth to keep things moving.”

Strategy for Success

Ron Jones Hardwood Sales Inc.’s strategy for success has been to continuously reinvent its product mix, markets and culture, and by reinvesting in technology, equipment and employees. Everyone is cross trained within the organization.

“We’re always staying forward thinking,” explains Steve Jones. “We must continually adapt, look at ways that we can increase value, and have good production flow through the business of our products. We are investing in machinery, in technology and in our people.”

In the past six years, Ron Jones Hardwood Sales has made significant investments in its facilities and the addition of two dry kilns that have increased capacity and efficiency. Most recently, the company completed building a 27,500-square foot lumber and planing line and storage/load building in Franklin. The company also added a new green grading line that can grade five to six tractor-trailers of lumber a day, improving productivity by 100 percent.

“And we’re not done yet,” says Steve Jones.

Lasting Quality

In an industry that thrives on quality, there’s been a big push to showcase “real” American hardwoods, and Ron Jones Hardwood Sales Inc. is helping to spearhead the campaign, #realamericanhardwood.

According to the Joneses, many consumers believe that the hardwoods they are buying are real, but they may be a cheaper, less quality

medium density fiberboard topped with veneer, a vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material.

Education is key.

“Hardwood is a real natural product made from nature and it is meant to last,” says Steve Jones “It’s an heirloom. Real hardwood, you’re mainly not going to replace it. It’ll be there for 100 years or more. That’s nature’s way!”

American hardwoods are sustainably grown, legally harvested and responsibly managed to ensure minimal environmental impact. It is a natural renewable product, and once a product is made from it, such as doors, flooring, paneling, molding, trim or furniture, the carbon is sequestered, which is better for the environment.

“Hardwood is the best untold story, especially when people want to be very conscious about what they’re putting in their homes nowadays,” Steve Jones says. “As a consumer, be more conscious to choose only real American hardwood products for your home.”

The Joneses recognize the importance of lasting quality. At Ron Jones Hardwood Sales Inc., it’s the driving force of their excellence in the hardwood lumber industry for the past 40 years and for years to come.