The construction industry was booming in 1847, a fact not overlooked by John D. Billard & George W. Lyon. Billard moved from Old Saybrook to Meriden to join Lyon in the lumber business. Lyon & Billard was incorporated in 1878 w/ John Billard as president until his death in 1902.
Although still a family company, there are no direct ties with the original founders. In 1923, A.J.White, president of Tuxis Metal & Coal Co. and Elm City Coal Co., bought Lyon & Billard. In 1926, Fred H. Billard, grandson of John D. bought some stock & re-established the Billard connection to the company for a while.
In the 1940's, Leonard Goralnik & Leonard Katz acquired the company from A.J. White, a relative by marriage. Today, the Goralnik family still owns & operates Lyon & Billard w/Ed-d Goralnik as president and 6 other immediate family members actively involved in the current management of the company.
Lyon & Billard has always been more than just a lumber company & has always strived to offer the best. The company was a major distributor of anthracite coal in the early 20th Century. In the mid-1930's, Lyon & Billard secured the exclusive Meriden area dealership for "The Electric Furnace Man", a thermostatically controlled automatic apparatus for operating a furnace, including feeding coal into the firebox & removing the ashes.
Of course, one of the problems with coal was the dust it created. Always looking forward in search of a better way, not just to control furnaces but, also the dust that transporting coal produced-Lyon & Billard brought in washed coal by gondola cars to its own rail siding. The bottom of these cars would be opened, dropping the coal into a concrete pit below the tracks. The company then used conveyor belts to carry the coal to concrete silos fifty feet high, moving 50 tons of coal in 45 minutes. But most impressive was the amount of dust this method of coal transport reduced.
Besides its commitment to quality & customer service, Lyon & Billard has managed to survive nearly 170 years because of their ability to change with the times. For example,as the preferred heating source changed from coal to oil, Lyon & Billard expanded its lumber & building materials business.
If any one incident in the company's history demonstrates its strength & resilience, it is the fire of 1934. The fire burned through the company's property, killing one man & causing $250,000 in damage. In the same newspaper that reported the fire, Lyon & Billard placed an ad assuring their clients that Lyon & Billard would be open for business as usual and all material & coal deliveries would be on schedule. They kept that promise and arose Phoenix-like from the ashes & built a larger, more modern facility. From that day forward, Lyon & Billard has continued to expand & improve whenever necessary.
Lyon & Billard was one of the first companies to enhance the look of Meriden's downtown area in 1957, when they completely remodeled its premises and installed large plate glass windows,an attractive exterior,well lit interior, modern display space & offices.
In 1974, a then 50-year-old coal silo—the last of its kind—in the yard of Lyon & Billard was torn down to make room for the firm’s ever-expanding lumberyard. Although the silo had been a kind of landmark to Meriden, part of Lyon & Billard’s resiliency is knowing when to move on. But by 1989, Lyon & Billard had completely outgrown its Hanover Street location—its home since 1947. The Goralniks moved their Meriden lumberyard to Gypsy Lane, giving them about another acre of much needed breathing room.
Today, Lyon & Billard has 5 locations, lumberyards in Meriden, Cheshire, East Hampton, Plainfield & Berlin-home of our New Design Center & Kitchen,Bath Showroom,Center Hardware in addition to the Berlin lumber yard. One might think that the surge of home improvement chain stores would hurt the success of Lyon & Billard. But with over 3,000 contractors who look to Lyon & Billard as their supplier and with a strong client base of homeowners, the company still stands strong.
There are advantages you can get at Lyon & Billard that you just can’t get at a chain store, such as almost 170 years of knowledge, the care & attention that can only come from a family business, a guarantee on everything they sell, and impeccable customer service. And of course, don’t forget the free delivery. In 1847, Lyon & Billard delivered its customers’ materials on horse-drawn carts. Today, Lyon & Billard has a modern fleet of trucks, including boom & moffett trucks, to provide free delivery anywhere in the state—no matter how large or small the order.
Whatever the future brings, Lyon & Billard will be there.
Lyon & Billard Lumber-History