Diebolt ready for next chapter

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April 16, 2015 - 12:00 AM

LAHARPE — For a company that prided itself with the motto “everything to build anything,” Saturday’s dispersal auction for Diebolt Lumber Company brings the end of an era.
“If you’re looking for a good price on building materials, it’ll be Saturday,” said Don Diebolt, owner of the now-closed lumber yard, which is only a few scant years past its heyday as the largest privately owned such business in southeast Kansas.
Diebolt Lumber closed its doors for good March 1 in the run-up to Saturday’s auction.
Diebolt is optimistic the sale will erase the rest of his outstanding debt, with enough money left over to further develop his next business venture, Diebolt LLC, a manufacturer of custom homes and post frame buildings.
“If we get rid of everything, that’d be good, so I can do what I want to do,” he said.
Not only is the rest of the lumber yard’s merchandise for sale — such things as siding, Corian countertop surfacing, bathtub and shower units, garage doors and kitchen displays — but so are the company’s buildings, shelving, grounds, office furniture and a full fleet of vehicles and trailers.
“We have two buildings full of merchandise, a lot of portable dollies, a CNC router,” Diebolt said. “Saturday is the day to get the bargains.”
The auction begins at 10 a.m. in the Diebolt Lumber showroom, with the real estate to be sold starting at 11 o’clock.
The 12 acres on which the lumber yard sits will be divided into three tracts for Saturday’s sale.
The first 5-acre lot contains a 1,700-square-foot home built in 2000, along with a pair of outbuildings. Diebolt’s daughter, Michelle, has lived in the home, but she is moving, her father said.
The second 5-acre tract features a fully remodeled display home with three outbuildings, including an 18,000-square-foot shop built in 2009.
The third tract of land is smaller, 2 acres, but contains the Diebolt Lumber showroom and retail center.
All three tracts have access to Nebraska Road, Diebolt noted.
United Country-Commercial Auctions is handling the sale. More information about Saturday’s auction is available at ucauctionservices.com.

DIEBOLT Lumber’s origins date back to 1951, when the late Lawrence Diebolt had recently moved to town but lost his barn in a fire.
After rebuilding the barn with native oak lumber, Lawrence sold the remaining lumber by placing an ad in the newspaper.
That lumber sold quickly, yet people continued to ask for more.
Lawrence obliged, ordering more oak lumber to satisfy his friends’ and neighbors’ requests.
Then, those who bought the lumber asked if he had nails, bolts and assorted other building supplies.
Suddenly, Diebolt was in the lumber business.

DON managed the lumber yard for his father in the 1970s and early 1980s, before branching out to open Kitchens and More in downtown Iola.
Don Diebolt operated Kitchens and More for 12 years before buying out his dad’s Diebolt Lumber in 1999.
The benefits, and drawbacks, of having the largest lumber yard in southeast Kansas were evident from the start.
“I had to be here every day,” he said. “Or maybe I didn’t have to be, but I felt it was necessary.”
And when business was booming — at its peak, Diebolt had 45 employees — almost all of his profits went back into overhead.
Diebolt Lumber’s struggles began a bit later than most expected.
While much of the industry was gripped by the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, Diebolt Lumber continued to rake in business.
Thank Mother Nature for that.
A windstorm in the fall of 2009 brought customers in droves.
“In fact, 2009 was our most profitable year ever,” Diebolt noted.
But as those repairs were completed, and local businesses began to feel the recession’s crunch, business soon dwindled.
To compensate, Diebolt began offering the same services he will with his new venture — building custom homes and post frame buildings.
“We were spending a lot of our time concentrating on custom homes and post frame buildings,” he said. “We were not dedicating that much time to lumber retail, which probably hurt sales.”
Which leads us to Saturday.
Diebolt, 65, said his new venture, “is almost like a retirement job. It should be a lot easier, lot less headache.
“Our bookkeeping will be a whole lot less,” he said. “I won’t have nearly the payroll to worry about. We’ll use primarily subcontractors.
“I’m not going to miss this,” he said Wednesday. “I think I’ll enjoy this new business venture much more than the lumber retail end of it.”
A headquarters for Diebolt LLC has not been determined, although Diebolt said it almost certainly will be “in Allen County.”

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