Customers in Action

Marietta Wood Supply and Marietta Dry Kiln


April 07, 2016

Highly maneuverable WA270

Starting at the age of 6, Craig Pharr spent time working in the woods with his father, James, who had his own logging company. Craig learned the finer points of the business by working alongside his dad after school, during breaks and over the summers. Upon graduating high school at 18, Craig joined James full time.

Today, Pharr and his wife, Lisa, own and operate Mississippi-based Marietta Wood Supply, Inc. and Marietta Dry Kiln, LLC as President and Vice President, respectively. Although James passed away in February 2014, his influence on the companies remains.

“Dad instilled many things in me; among them were a solid work ethic, honesty and perseverance,” said Pharr. “He always said that his word was his bond and to always do right by a customer, even if it costs you money. We strive to stay true to those ideals.”

That philosophy helped the Pharrs adapt and thrive through changing market conditions as well as transitions in the business. James started his own logging operation in the early 1970s, using horses and side loaders. Late in the decade, he added sawmilling with a single mill.

“This is in my blood,” said Craig. “My dad was the third or fourth generation of his family in the industry. He sawed pine in Georgia for many years before coming back to Mississippi and starting the logging business, so it makes sense that he decided to add that aspect.”

By the time Craig started full time in 1984, James had dropped logging and was focused solely on sawmilling. Marietta Wood Supply continued to grow over the past 30-plus years, especially during the last decade. Marietta Dry Kiln was founded about five years ago. Between the two businesses, the Pharrs run five sawmills and a planer mill, in addition to dry kilns, from three locations in Marietta. They produce more than 25 million board feet of material per year, roughly equivalent to sawing nearly a half-million board feet per week.

Quality products of varying size

Marietta Wood Supply and Marietta Dry Kiln source logs from a 100-mile radius that includes northern Mississippi, southern Tennessee and western Alabama. The companies purchase tracts of standing timber and contract to have it logged and brought to the mills where they turn it into a wide variety of products.

“About 70 percent of what we saw is hardwood species such as oak,” said Craig. “We also deal with mixed species. Our main products are railroad crossties, including 6-by-8, 7-by-8 and 7-by-9 sizes. Those generally go to customers fairly close to home, mainly in the Tupelo, Mississippi, area, which is about 30 miles away.”

Other products include several sizes of dimensional lumber that is used for building, flooring and molding. In addition to traditional types and sizes of materials, Marietta Wood Supply and Marietta Dry Kiln custom cuts to customers’ specifications.

“Whatever they need, whether it’s a certain width or color, we try our best to accommodate them” said Craig. “I think that level of service, along with a very keen eye on providing quality materials, has helped us gain a good reputation in the industry.”

Employees a huge part of success

Marietta Wood Supply and Marietta Dry Kiln move their products with about 10 of their own trucks and regularly contract out three to four more. They employ about 60 people, many of whom have been with the companies long term. Key individuals include Robert Wouldridge, Carl Welborn and Terry Pierce.

“Several employees have worked here a decade or more, and in some cases 20-plus years,” said Lisa, who oversees the companies’ offices. “We do our best to treat them right and provide good wages. In turn, they are dedicated and give us an honest day’s work. They are a huge part of our success.”

Barko, Komatsu provide high production

In addition to experienced employees, Craig said quality, reliable equipment is another essential component in maintaining high production. Marietta Wood Supply and Marietta Dry Kiln rely heavily on Barko and Komatsu machinery purchased from Power Equipment Company with the help of Territory Manager Chad Roberts.

Marietta Wood Supply and Marietta Dry Kiln feed two mills and prep logs for a third with a direct-wired electric Barko 495ML Magnum knuckleboom that features a lift capacity of 27,720 pounds. The loader replaced an older diesel machine, and the Pharrs noticed an immediate difference.

“It has all the power and capacity we need in a much more efficient package,” Craig noted. “Because it’s electric instead of diesel, our costs were reduced right up front with the elimination of fuel. There are no filters or oil to change, and no starters to replace, so our maintenance is reduced and our owning and operating expenses are down.”

Logs, ties and lumber products are moved with five Komatsu WA270 wheel loaders. Each 149-horsepower Tier 4 model is equipped with grapples.

“Our yards are tight, so we want loaders that are highly maneuverable and can turn in limited space,” said Craig. “At the same time, they have to have the horsepower to pick up sizeable loads and lift and stack them quickly. The Komatsu WA270s are a perfect fit.”

Power Equipment Company tracks the loaders’ hours through KOMTRAX and contacts Marietta Wood Supply and Marietta Dry Kiln to set up scheduled maintenance. Power Equipment technicians perform complimentary services for the first three years or 2,000 hours through the Komatsu CARE program.

“That’s added value, but we’ve come to expect that from Komatsu and Power,” stated Craig. “Our relationship with Power Equipment goes back several years because everyone there takes excellent care of us. Chad ensured we made well-informed decisions on our latest equipment purchases, and our Customer Support Representative, David Hicks, has done a great job of working with us on our parts and service needs.”

Blessed to be in the industry

“We feel the Lord has blessed us greatly with the ability to be in this industry and that I could work alongside my dad for as long as I did,” said Craig. “We will probably sawmill as long as our health allows us to. That’s our plan.

“We expanded quite a bit during the past few years, and now our eyes are on maintaining what we have,” he said. “Fortunately, as we grew, we were able to continue providing the quality lumber and good service our customers expected. We won’t sacrifice those things in an effort to get bigger.”