K.E. ”MAC” MacBeath believed that “a man’s word should be as good as any notarized document.” A proud Scot, Mac had a dream of success. He had the business skills, the knowledge, and the work ethic that he needed to make that dream come true. It was on the foundation of honesty, integrity, and a strong sense of fair play that he began this hardwood company which bears his name, MacBeath Hardwood Company.
In the early 1940’s Mac, his wife Pauline, and their sons Herb and Bill returned to the Bay Area after spending the Depressions years on a ranch in Santa Rosa, California. Mac was ready to start his own business and, with his partner Alex Gordon, in 1943-1944 established the “Gordon MacBeath Lumber Company” which was located at the corner of Parker and San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, California.
The post-World War II economic boom provided a good environment for the new business, but by 1953 the company was experiencing growing pains. As a result of the increasing difficulties, Mac sold his interest in the business to Alex Gordon who, in turn, sold the company to a subsidiary of Sacramento Box Company.
In 1954 Mac, wanting to begin again, leased property at 930 Ashby Avenue in Berkeley and “MacBeath Hardwood Company” became a reality. Mac’s son Bill, who had just been discharged from the army and who, two years earlier graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Business Administration/Forestry, joined his dad in the new business. Bill brought his knowledge of wood technology to the company and gave Mac the assistance he needed from the start. There was an industrious young high school student who was sweeping the floors at Busby Truck Body Co., the company that had just vacated the Ashby property that Mac had leased and eventually purchased. Mac was so impressed with the enthusiasm of the “kid”, that he hired him immediately. Thus, Manuel O. Lavrador became the next member of the new team.
Within a year and a half, Mac realized that, since the company was growing so quickly, they needed help. He had first met Joe Cortese in 1946 when Joe was working with his father at Paramount Cabinet Shop in Oakland. Mac remembered hearing a comment about Joe: “…if the son could work like his father, don’t pass him up – hire him in a second!” Mac, never one to ignore good advice, didn’t pass him up and hired Joe in January 1956.
Mac, Bill, Joe and Manuel were an unbeatable combination. They had the skills, the spirit, and the desire to build a successful business and they forged a deep, close, family relationship.
MacBeath Hardwood Company was successfully established in Berkeley and incorporated in the state of California in October 1959. Shortly thereafter Mac began to consider expansion and in 1962/1963 his search took him across the Bay where he acquired the San Francisco property from Davis Hardwood with the help of Ralph Mannion who worked for Davis Hardwood at that time. After the acquisition, Ralph came on board as sales manager and Joe Cortese moved over as the San Francisco branch manager.
Never one to rest on success, Mac saw an opportunity for future growth in Salt Lake City. In 1966 the third MacBeath Hardwood Company location was established at 1576 South 300 West in Salt Lake City. Harold Cole was the first Salt Lake City manager and he was followed by Larry Nordstrom who remained manager until his passing August 10, 2000. Larry’s assistant Manager, Max Rickley was moved to Berkeley to manage the Berkeley yard in the early 80’s.
Progress was Mac’s vision. Sales had been steadily increasing to the point where Mac and Bill needed additional staff. Vince Cortese and Peter Bernthal were hired in 1972/1973. Pete was very well established in the Northeast and Midwest territories and brought new suppliers to MacBeath. A Michigan native, Pete was happy to relocate to the Bay Area and years later subsequently established a satellite sales office in Livingston, Montana. One of the “tall tales” that still circulates throughout the industry is of Mac telling Pete, “If you order one more stick of wood you’re paying for it.”
In 1976/1977 the Company acquired Brush Industrial Timber in the Los Angeles suburb of Montebello, CA. Joe Cortese spent a year in the “Southland” reorganizing and establishing the former Brush Industrial Timber into the fourth MacBeath Hardwood Company branch before returning to the Bay Area. His son Vince Cortese was transferred to Los Angeles to enhance the outside sales and eventually became the branch manager.
Mac was a visionary and the many employees who were a part of the MacBeath family in those developing years shared Mac’s vision and their contributions were vital to the company’s early success. Many key employees joined the MacBeath team as the growth of the Company continued. Among them was Myron Milne in 1976, who eventually became CFO of MacBeath Hardwood Company, Joe DeSousa in 1979, who became the controller and in June of 1979 George (Carter) Rothrock left his career as a high school math teacher and coach to work for MacBeath Montebello, under the guidance of Gage McKinney and along side of Vince Cortese in the position of yard foreman. A few years passed and Carter left MacBeath for a period of three months to broaden his horizons working for a moulding company. He returned to MacBeath and all was well until the fire in June 1981. Our Montebello branch literally burned to the ground. The only structures remaining were the office and the pole sheds. Not to be discouraged Mac saw to it that “out of the ashes” there raised a new MacBeath Montebello. Vince Cortese, Carter and their hardworking crew rebuilt Montebello with the assistance from all other MacBeath branches. The MacBeath spirit of family helping family prevailed.
In 1983 the Company acquired the dry kiln area of the Edinburgh, Indiana location. Shortly thereafter, in April of 1984, Joe Cortese was named President of MacBeath. In 1986 negotiations were completed and the remainder of the Edinburgh, Indiana location was acquired from Hammermill Paper Company. Carter was sent to Indiana to work and develop what would eventually became MacBeath concentration yard.