Jack Hedstrom to retire from Hedstrom Lumber Company

In its 99th year of operation, Hedstrom Lumber Company of Grand Marais prepares to say thank you and goodbye to Jack Hedstrom, 67, grandson of company founder Andrew Hedstrom and an owner who helped guide this iconic North Shore business through years of difficult struggle and monumental change in the lumber industry. That the company survived to plan its centennial celebration next year owes in significant degree to Jack Hedstrom’s work, said Howard Hedstrom, Jack’s brother and company president.
On Sept. 16, Jack Hedstrom will retire as vice president for sales. He will be replaced by Jeff Johanns, 39, previously vice president for operations and plant manager at Stewart’s Forest Products in Fort Ripley, Minn., a position he has held since 2004. Johanns will be returning home, in a sense. He is a 1992 graduate of Cook County High School. He studied forest products at the University of Minnesota.
Jack Hedstrom will aid with the transition and formally retire at the end of 2013.
Jack Hedstrom’s diverse duties at Hedstrom lumber include production planning, dry kiln operations, sales and shipping coordination. Johanns will take on all of those responsibilities.
“Finding someone who possessed that specific combination of skills was a challenge,” Jack Hedstrom said. “But Jeff can do all of it. We were fortunate to find him.”
In addition to his multiple duties at the mill, Jack Hedstrom also serves as chairman of the board for Hedstrom Lumber, a position he will retain. He also will continue to serve on the board of directors for Northeast Lumber Manufacturers Association, as president of the Northern Softwood Lumber Bureau and as a member of the American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC). Members of the ALSC are appointed by the secretary of Commerce. The ALSC sets lumber standards that have a global reach.
Like many of the young people in the Hedstrom clan, Jack began working at the family mill in his high-school years, continued through college and joined the company full-time in 1968. Jack took time out to serve as a military policeman in the U.S. Army, including a memorable posting to Korea, and then returned to work at the mill. One reason Jack can handle such a diverse load of duties at the plant, he said, is because he did so many different jobs over the years that it gave him an intimate knowledge of how the business operates.
Hedstrom Lumber is one of the largest employers in Cook County and one of the few remaining independent lumber mill operations in Minnesota. It has managed to survive a harrowing degree of boom and bust in the industry that has taken down many much larger operations.
Three factors stand out in explaining the company’s survival, the Hedstroms say: Strong management, a determined effort to squeeze every bit of useful material from each log (if this were a hog farm, it would be known for using everything but the pigs’ squeal), and a nimble ability to adjust its niche products to rapidly changing market conditions. Jack Hedstrom played influential roles in all of those areas.
Hedstrom Lumber Co. began operations in July 1914. A centennial celebration is being planned for July 10, 2014.