Black Bear Flooring
In 1892 Peter Thomson founded Peter Thomson & Sons (PTS), a small Ontario lumberyard to serve the needs of local builders. For over 120 years, PTS has grown steadily, offering a range of wood products to clients.
PTS broke into the flooring market in 2008 with Black Bear Flooring (BBF), a subsidiary business specializing in customized flooring projects for builders and homeowners. Rob Bewell, president of BBF, alongside John Melnick, vice president of BBF, as well as Jaime Lippett, floor sales manager, work together with a team of 15 to provide unique flooring design and fabrication services to individual customers and wholesalers alike.
PTS has been treating and finishing lumber for more than a century. Currently, the business exports North American hardwood to the United States, Asia and Europe. Bewell notes that, in the past, the company has imported from Europe, depending on each continent’s growth and manufacturing strength at the time.
“We focus on wholesalers,” he explains. “We work with big manufacturers in the United States and across Europe; though here in the U.S., we also sell to end-users. We have our own saw mill and workers. We start with a log, bring it into the yard, steam and kiln dry wood. For the flooring division, we cut and finish boards to customer specifications.”
PTS and BBF operate out of a single location in New Tecumseh, Ontario. An on-site lumber operation allows the company to keep work in-house, controlling quality and keeping costs down for customers. For the flooring end of the business, the team works with two major homebuilders, as well as certified installers.
“We work with the end-user to create custom specifications and then produce the flooring,” notes Bewell. “Everything, from design to the final cut is performed in-house and we have extremely close relationships with pre-finishers and installers. Both are very reliable and know how to work with, and take care of, our products.”
The team has put together a number of specialty flooring products for customers in recent years. “We strive to be the best, trying to go above and beyond with creativity,” explains Lippett. “I’m trying to make a product that’s going to stand up to the test of time. I’m not selling a product that you’re going to replace in a couple of years; this hardwood is going to be down for life.”
BBF specializes in complex custom work. The company’s impressive portfolio attracts clients who have a difficult project ahead. One such project, which Lippett considers one of the company’s most engaging, was a complex floor restoration.
“This is an old schoolhouse built in the 1930s,” she elaborates. “We produced two-and-a-quarter-inch maple flooring to perfectly match the original. We produced it just as it would have been made originally, with wood and oil. This was a very complicated and costly process, but it came out really great.”
Making it in an International Market
While Ontario has remained more or less economically steady over the last few years, many of BBF’s customers in the United States struggled through the country’s recent recession. “The housing market in the United States has presented the biggest challenge for us lately,” Bewell explains. “We have been trying to focus on work in Ontario to balance that out. Working here is helping us build up our name.”
With a renewed local focus, BBF is making some changes on the homefront. The company is taking a strong approach to conservation. By offering environmentally kind wood products, the team is reducing its impact on the environment while simultaneously ensuring the stability of the lumber industry as a whole. Prudent forestry has taken on importance in the market, as well as extending the lifetime of lumber. By utilizing an advanced, UV drying technique, BBF floors last longer, meaning the product does not have to be replaced as often.
As the business continues to grow steadily, Bewell, Melnick and Lippett are looking for new market opportunities. With a strengthening market abroad in Europe, BBF is ready to grow at home, too.
“We are trying to create unique and custom floors to tailor to individual tastes, rather than generic brands,” says Bewell. “I absolutely love my product and I would like for everyone, from builders to families, to love it as much as I do.”
The U.S. market is in recovery mode, meaning an increase in business in the near future. Wherever the lumber trade takes the business, Black Bear Flooring and Peter Thomson & Sons will continue to provide top-of-the-line lumber processing and design services to clients worldwide.