Steamboat resident Wendell Hicks a lumberyard icon for 50 years
April 17, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Some things don't change, and in the lumber business, it's most things.
Wood is wood, and while new products come on the market now and then, Wendell Hicks said his job for the past 50 years has been all about the people.
"A customer is what you make them," he said. "You just have to go with them."
He's touched the materials that have framed, trimmed, sheeted and decorated countless buildings in the area for 50 years, from rich redwood trim to the now popular blue-tinged, beetle-killed pine.
It was 1963 when Wendell Hicks first lifted steel out of the back of a truck at Steamboat Lumber.
It would be the first task of his job, which would become his life and his livelihood.
Celebrating 50 years at Steamboat Lumber, Hicks said he's not going anywhere.
"I'm still not retiring," he said. "I don't golf. I don't ski. What do I do? There's nothing on TV."
Steamboat Lumber will be holding an open house from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, during which Hicks will get to do what he does best: connect with the community.
"I enjoy seeing the people, working with the contractors," he said. "The guys, they're all great guys."
Four days each week, Hicks arrives at the west Steamboat hardware store and lumberyard at 6:45 a.m. Just after opening at 7, the door begins to swing.
"He's a wealth of knowledge," Steamboat Lumber General Manager Stu Koci said. "He brings that hometown feel."
Koci said he's been with Steamboat Lumber since 2006 and said there are regulars who come into the store each day to talk to "Wendy."
"He's seen a lot of managers. I'm just the fortunate manager here to get to celebrate his 50th," he said.
Hicks was born in Denver 77 years ago and moved to Steamboat Springs as a young boy in 1942. He used to march in the Ski Band at the annual Winter Carnival. That's another tradition that hasn't changed.
Although he didn't have a bass drum strapped to his chest, Hicks led the Ski Band down Lincoln Avenue for the 100th Winter Carnival in February.
"I don't think I could have gone another half-block," Hicks laughed.
Hicks married Beth Hicks before he started at Steamboat Lumber and has three children, Steve Hicks, Katrina Hicks and Janet Russell, who died in June.
Pictures of his grandchildren are pinned to his filing cabinet, and his eyes light up when he talks about how much they've grown.
Also next to his desk is a yardstick and a piece of a torn-up garage door that one of his customers asked him to match.
Koci said Hicks just has a way with lumber in his mind.
"They can come in and say what they want, and he can build it for them by just talking through it," Koci said.
But after 50 years of helping others build and repair, there's one thing at which he knows he's no expert.
"The only thing I'm not good at, and I'll admit it, it's plumbing," he said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com