Sunday, April 25, 2010

Richard Buettner shares history of Buettner Bros. in Cullman

`Making a phone call in Cullman used to be like picking up the phone in Mayberry and talking to Sarah the operator.

"Aunt Clara, I need to talk to Uncle Herman," Richard Buettner said he used to say when his aunt worked at the telephone company. She'd patch him through without needing to get an exchange.

Buettner's great-grandfather founded what is now known as Buettner Bros. Lumber in Cullman in 1886. The company, known for its iconic green benches seen around town since the 1950s, has been through many iterations since that time.

The company once milled its own lumber, taking the sawmills out into the woods and moving them as needed. They've built everything from chicken coops, beehives, furniture, showcases, church pews and shell homes like Jim Walter. Their screen door business suffered when Lowe's moved in, but picked back up after people discovered the cheaper ones didn't last as long.

Throughout the years Buettner Bros. also has manufactured beer dispensers, miniature pool tables and even a device to hold cluster bombs for the military.

Buettner Bros. opened a Gardendale store in the 1970s, but has since sold it. And as for the famous whistle that used to be heard throughout town, Buettner says the store still has it, but no longer produces steam with which to blow it.

Currently, the business is being run by a fifth generation.

"We've come a long way -- and we're still here," Buettner said.
Richard Buettner displays parts from a beehive. As a child he was paid a penny a piece to nail them together.

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