Boehm-Madisen Lumber Company was founded as a partnership in 1934 by John J. Boehm and James E. Madisen during the depths of the depression. They incorporated a short time later. John Boehm was employed by the John Shroeder lumber Company. James Madisen was employed by Paine Lumber Co. Both had been notified that salaries were going to be cut, and lay offs were imminent. They figured they could do that well on their own. Both men were in their late 30’s…
The Company started as an office wholesaler of Hardwood and Softwood lumber. Their headquarters were in downtown Milwaukee.
Madisen was experienced in the softwood industry primarily with Western US suppliers. Boehm had experience in both Hardwood and Softwood Northern and Canadian supply markets were his area of expertise.
By 1939 they had become well know throughout Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Canada, and the West Coast. They acquired Thiensville Lumber Company in 1940, and when World War II started, were well poised to profit from the demand for lumber and forest products. They operated sawmills at Lake Linden and Birch, Michigan, and had a majority interest in the Yawkey-Bissel Hardwood Flooring plant in White Lake, WI. The business grew during the War years and the housing and industrial markets that followed the War.
By the early 50’s, tensions began to develop between Madisen and Boehm. They had sold their interests in the sawmills and the flooring plant. In 1955, they agreed to break up what was left of the company. Boehm kept the name and both the Hardwood and Softwood Wholesale business. Madisen took control of the retail yards. This was Thiensville Lumber Company, and Brown Deer Lumber Company. He consolidated those operations in Thiensville, and started The Mequon Distribution yard, which grew to be one of the largest distributers of building materials in the area. John Boehm stayed in the office wholesale business in downtown Milwaukee. Boehm-Madisen operated out of a suite of offices on the 6thfloor of the Plankinton Building, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave.
In 1961, Thomas J. Kestly, Boehm’s son-in-law, left his Dental Practice, and became a full time employee of Boehm-Madisen Lumber Co. He was Treasurer and worked in Hardwood sales. By 1970, Kestly had established himself in the business. He became President in 1971.
In 1977 the company bought 4 acres on Jericho Drive in Waukesha, WI. The property consisted of a 15,000 square foot storage shed and a small office. This allowed the company to dramatically expand its hardwood and softwood distribution business.
The 1979 to 1982 recession saw the last of the wholesale softwood business. The good lumber yards were merging or going out of business. The supply side of the softwood business was being consolidated into a few super large corporations. The age of the big box lumber and home supply stores, Menards, Home Depot, Lowes did their part to nail the lid on this business.
The company built an office and another 10,000 Sq Ft warehouse and moved out of the Plankinton Bldg on May 20, 1981.
After the 1979-82 recession, the economy expanded rapidly and the company added another 25,000 square feet of warehouse space at the Jericho Drive location.
The company began its third generation of family ownership in 1981. By the end of the 1980’s, all three of Kestly’s children were involved in the business.
The company continued to grow by acquiring properties on Hickory Street in Pewaukee, WI and Doral Road in Waukesha, WI.
Today, the company is run by Kestly’s three children Tom, Tracey, and John. They are surrounded by an outstanding team of employees that exemplify what a successful family business should look like.