Owners of Flat River Building Center in Park Hills since March of 1977, Crockey and Kathryn Peterson recently decided to retire and have sold the business to R.P. Lumber.
Prior to buying the building and home improvement supplies store, Crockey was a race car driver for 18 years. After leaving the racing business, he returned to Flat River to become involved in his family’s Pepsi-Cola bottling business.
“I’m working at the Pepsi plant,” said Peterson, “and I walk in and my dad says, ‘Son, I need you to help me sell that Hovis lumber company.’ People were really taking advantage of Elmer’s widow after he died.”
The business owned by the Hovises was named Safe-way Lumber Company. By the late 1970s, it had become rundown and there was only one person, Richard Hitchcock, who was interested in buying the business. He proposed that the Petersons become business partners with him and his wife, Beverly, and the deal was done.
Two years later, in March of 1979, the Petersons bought out the Hitchcocks and became sole owners of Flat River Building Center.
Jim Mills, who was involved in urging the Petersons to initially buy the business, became friends with Crockey as a result of their interactions. Mills spent much of his spare time on weekends helping Crockey construct the new Flat River Building Center.
“We started out as friends and now he’s like my brother,” said Crockey.
Over three decades later, Mills’ influence remains strong. After the Petersons decided to sell the building center, they began to look for a buyer who would serve the community as the Petersons and their employees had for the past 38 years. Mills, who ended up working for R.P. Lumber for many years, believed the two businesses would make a great match and helped to facilitate the sale.
R.P. Lumber was founded by Robert L. Plummer in January of 1977, in Staunton, Illinois and now operates more than 50 lumberyards and a truss plant throughout Illinois and Missouri.
An interesting coincidence, the Petersons first met Plummer and his wife during a business trip to Jamaica in 1983.
“They’re a very good company, they’re very successful and they’re good, family-oriented people,” said Kathryn. “Members of their family work in the business and they’re good, Christian people. I think they’re going to be a big plus for Park Hills and the whole area. They’re planning on improving on it and they’re going to build onto it.”
“When we bought the store, we improved it and built the new store and made it an asset to the community and I think that’s going to happen again now,” said Kathryn. “That makes me feel good.”
Long-time customers of Flat River Building Center will be seeing the same faces when they enter the newly-owned store.
“The new owners kept all our employees,” said Kathryn, “which made a lot of sense. There’s good employees here that know all about plumbing [and other specific aspects of construction and home improvement]. They know the store inside-out, they know the customers and they know the community.”
One of the familiar faces is that of Cheri Bailey, who began working for the Petersons 33 years ago. She used to babysit the Peterson children before she began working at Flat River Building Center and is currently serving as store manager for the new owners.
“She’s been such an asset to us,” said Kathryn. “She knows every nook and cranny in this store, she places the orders, she does the accounts payable and account receivable work, and she’s done everything in this store. She knows way more about it than even we do. She’s an invaluable person for sure.”
Placing a high value on the relationships they’ve formed throughout the years, the Petersons were emphatic about making sure their customers and employees know how much they are still appreciated.
“I want to thank all of my customers and former employees for their many years of loyalty,” said Crockey. “We couldn’t have been successful without them.”
Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or email@example.com.