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Our History - Lyon & Billard Lumber Company


Much like today, the construction industry of 1847 was booming in Connecticut. Lumber, in turn, was the business to be in—a fact not overlooked by John D. Billard and George W. Lyon. Billard moved from Old Saybrook to Meriden to join Lyon in the lumber business, forming the famous Lyon & Billard. In 1878, Lyon & Billard incorporated the lumber company. Billard held the office of president until his death in 1902. His son, John L. Billard, succeeded him.

Although Lyon & Billard is a family company, there are no family ties with the original founders. In 1923, A.J. White, president of the Tuxis Metal and Coal Co. and the Elm City Coal Co., bought Lyon & Billard for $600,000 in 1923. In 1926, Fred H. Billard, son of John L., bought some of the stock and became a director, re-establishing the Billard name with the company, at least for a while.

In the 1940s, Leonard Goralnik and Leonard Katz acquired the company from A.J. White, a relative by marriage. Today, the Goralnik family still owns and operates Lyon & Billard, with Edd Goralnik as President. Lyon & Billard has been more than just a lumber company and has always strived to offer the best. The company was once a major distributor of anthracite coal in the early 20th century. In the mid-1930s, Lyon & Billard secured the Meriden area dealership for “electric Furnace Man,” a thermostatically controlled automatic apparatus for operating a furnace, including feeding coal into the firebox and removing the ashes.

Of course, one of the problems with coal was the dust it created. Always looking forward in search of a better way—not to control just the furnace but the dust that transporting coal produced—Lyon & Billard brought in washed coal by gondola cars to its own rail siding. The bottoms of these cars would be opened, dropping the coal into a concrete pit below the tracks. The company then used conveyor belts to carry the coal to concrete silos fifty feet high, moving 50 tons of coal in 45 minutes. But most impressive was the amount of dust this method of moving coal reduced.

Besides its commitment to quality and customer service, Lyon & Billard has managed to survive 156 years because of its ability to change with the times. For example, as the preferred heating resource changed from coal to oil, Lyon & Billard expanded its lumber and building materials field, including retail.

If any one incident in the history of the company demonstrates its strength and Phoenix-like ability, it is the fire of 1934. The fire burned through the company’s property, killing one man and causing $250,000 in damage. In the same newspaper that reported the fire, the people at Lyon & Billard placed an ad assuring their clients that the fire would not affect “business as usual,” and all material and coal deliveries would be on schedule. They kept that promise. The fire was but a minor setback, and Lyon & Billard arose from the ashes and built a larger and more modern facility. And from that time, it has continued to expand and improve its location, when necessary.

Lyon & Billard was one of the first to enhance the look of Meriden’s downtown area when, in 1957, the company completely remodeled its premises with large plate glass windows, attractive exterior, well-illuminated interior, air conditioning, modern display areas, and offices.

In 1974, a then 50-year-old coal silo—the last of its kind—in the yard of Lyon & Billard was torn down to make room for the firm’s ever-expanding lumberyard. Although the silo had been a kind of landmark to Meriden, part of Lyon & Billard’s resiliency is knowing when to move on. But by 1989, Lyon & Billard had completely outgrown its Hanover Street location—its home since 1947. The Goralniks moved their Meriden lumberyard to Gypsy Lane, giving them about another acre of much needed breathing room.

Today, Lyon & Billard has 5 locations, lumberyards in Meriden, Cheshire, East Hampton and Berlin, a Kitchen & Bath Showroom and model home in the Galleria Design Center in Middletown. One might think that the surge of home improvement chain stores would hurt the success of Lyon & Billard. But with over 3,000 contractors who look to Lyon & Billard as their supplier and with a strong client base of homeowners, the company stands unscathed.

There are advantages you can get at Lyon & Billard that you just can’t get at a chain store, such as 156 years of knowledge, the care that can come only from a family business, a guarantee on everything they sell, and impeccable customer service. And of course, don’t forget the free delivery. In 1847, Lyon & Billard delivered its customers’ materials on horse-drawn carts. Today, Lyon & Billard uses its fleet of over 40 trucks, including 12 boom trucks, to provide free delivery anywhere in the state—no matter how large or small the order.

Whatever the future brings, Lyon & Billard will be there.
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Main Address:  38 Gypsy Lane, Meriden, CT 06451  |  Main Telephone: (203)235-4487  |  Main Fax: (203) 235-9736

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