WAYLAND, Mich. – – Imagine starting a business way back in 1898 and still coming to work. The Jay L. Smith Lumber Company was a staple in Wayland for many decades, but has been transformed in to some meager part-time odds and ends work here and there. Present owner Jay Smith worked alongside his dad for many years when business was booming before the big box stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menard’s made appearances.
It was Jay’s grandfather that started the business, then eventually changed the name to Businessmen’s Paper Company to accommodate the paper recycling business. Jay’s grandfather bought a paper bailer patent and was selling and manufacturing the machines for years. That put the lumber company on the map before the name was changed back.
Today Jay Smith has some treasures of his own locked away in the old lumber shop that is all but vacant. Old tools, milk jugs, record books, and several other items can be found on the now empty shelves that once held aisles of hardware supplies. Jay seems to almost be the resident historian for Wayland with many never before seen photos of the city and area. Some local residents might not even know that Wayland once had their own movie theater built in 1938.
Perhaps one of the most eye-catching things we spotted was the “Wall of Fame.” Composite photos of the graduating classes of 1929 through 1958 from Wayland Union High School. The photos were being thrown out many years ago when the high school was relocating to their new building. Jay’s aunt, a school teacher, retrieved them and he inherited them when she died years later. It’s interesting to note that Phil Regan came from the class of 1955. He was both a starter and relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Dodgers, and White Sox from 1960 through 1972.
While Jay has closed the lumber part of the business, he still comes in to work everyday and dabbles in glass and screen repair, and also takes old photographs and turns them in to birthday and postcards. As Jay states, “it keeps me busy.” The big red building still stands at 710 West Maple Street in Wayland. While there is no website or Facebook page for the shop, more information on Wayland can be found at the Chamber of Commerce website.