Anchor Lumber prepares for move to new Silvis retail corridor
Anchor Lumber Co., based in Silvis, Ill., has two other facilities in the East Moline Industrial Park, including this one where pre-manufactured walls are built. In April, the company will open another building along John Deere Road in Silvis that sell items such as windows, siding, roofing and insulation. (Jeff Cook/Quad-City Times)

Alex McGehee likes to occasionally help build trusses in his state-of-the-art building in East Moline’s Industrial Park.

“I still like doing it once in awhile,” said McGehee, 48, while overlooking operations inside the truss-making facility.

He used to do it by hand, carrying the heavy lumber pieces to the area where they would be stacked.  Today, the job is much more automated; a machine stacks the trusses that are used primarily for new homes and commercial buildings.

For the most part, though, McGehee sits behind a desk or handles a host of other duties not associated with the hands-on training he received growing up around Anchor Lumber Co. in Silvis, Ill.

His father, Allen McGehee, opened the business in 1962.

And today the younger McGehee is set to open another new facility for the growing company.

In April, Anchor Lumber and its Builders First Choice retail operation will move into a new facility being built along John Deere Road and Crosstown Avenue in Silvis, across the street from the new Wal-Mart that is set to open March 1.

“We just ran out of space,” he said, referring to the East Moline operations. “We already had (the land) across the Wal-Mart. Builders First Choice has 16,000 square feet and now will have 24,000 square feet. It will be very visual and be more accessible for our retail customers.”

Builders First Choice sells items such as shingles, shutters, windows, vinyl siding, roofing and insulation. It currently shares space in the industrial park with the portion of the business that makes interior and exterior, pre-manufactured walls for homes, apartments and assisted living centers, he said.

That business is located next door to the site where trusses are manufactured. Once the Silvis facility opens, the entire wall-building business will take over the current Builders First Choice facility.

Kent Ogilvie, sales and purchasing manager for Anchor, said all the businesses are growing, especially the wall-manufacturing portion.

“It has been extremely popular with commercial business, apartments,” he said. “If it is raining or snowing, you are still inside working on the walls. It is a fourth of the time to construct the structure. One of the big things about these wall panels is that it is hard to find qualified labor … this takes a less-experienced crew to be put together.”

Allen McGehee retired 12 years ago and his son, Alex, took over — and has grown — the family business.

“He started Anchor in a little garage and added onto to it 20 times,” McGehee said of his father.

Alex McGehee said Anchor Lumber has made trusses for 35 years at the Silvis store. “They had the truss plant in the (lumber) yard,” he said. But as it grew, there was need for more room. The new truss building was built five years ago and has resulted in increased production.

Items such as roofing, windows and siding also were sold in Silvis. “We needed to expand that category,” he added. So, in 2005, Builders First Choice was built in the industrial park. “We moved over here to move into a bigger building,” McGehee said.

In all, 75 people are employed by the company, with about 50 of those employed at the retail store in Silvis, he said.

“We sell lots of materials to retail contractors,” he said. “We run a different kind of business than Lowe’s or Menards. We cater to contractors. We provide lots of things you can’t get at Lowe’s or Menards.”

The lumber yard is a big part of the overall enterprise, he said.

“We have a big lumber yard. We make about 70 deliveries a day to folks in need of building materials,” he said. “We’ll do whatever our customers want. We are very busy and growing.”

Business is so strong that the wall panel division has added 10 new people in the last six months, said Ogilvie, who has worked for Anchor for 10 years. He previously managed Alexander Lumber Co. in Geneseo, Ill.

“We are experienced people. A lot of people here are long-long-time lumber company people,” he said. “That is one of the ways we try to separate ourselves.”

He said what also sets them apart is the fact that the company offers a variety of divisions and products.

In addition to the trusses, walls, lumber yard and Builders First Choice, he said the company also has a full-time plumbing division and it also has a full-serve lawn and garden sales and service division.

“We are very diversified. That has helped us get through the good and lean times,” Ogilvie said.

Doug Schorpp can be contacted at (563) 383-2292 or