Founded in 1948 by Joseph E.
Richard M. Kratt ran the
business with his father Joseph, until 1975 when Richard
purchased the business.
Michael R. Kratt purchased
the business from his father, Richard, in 1989 and continues to
run Kratt Lumber Company today.
This picture is from 1949 on the Northwest Corner of Losey Boulevard and Weston Street.
This was part of a 50 home development built by Kratt Lumber Company and Osborne Nolop.
Kratt Lumber Company was
founded at a time when there were about a dozen other
full-service lumberyards in town. Those other yards have
disappeared over the years, but Kratt Lumber has survived and is
now in the hands of a third-generation owner, Michael Kratt.
There are a lot of memories
stored along with the building materials in Kratt Lumber
warehouses at 1714 S. 16th St. “Dad and Grandpa built most of
the houses from here to Losey Blvd", says Michael Kratt, who took
over the business from his father in September of 1989. The
Kratts supplied the lumber for the contractors who constructed
most of those South Side homes.
The business operates from
its original location, although warehouses have been added over
the years so that Kratt Lumber now stretches from its front on
16th Street all the way through the middle of the block of 15th
Street. Old railroad tracks are in place beside the warehouses,
and even though lumber now arrives on trucks, Michael notes that
rail delivery could be used in a pinch. But that isn’t something
he would encourage.
He began working for his
father and grandfather when he was in high school more than 30
years ago, and remember hot days spent tossing two-by-fours out
of boxcars. The business was started in 1948, when Joseph Kratt
left his job as sales manager for another local lumberyard to
start his own company. He brought his son, Richard, with him,
and together they built the business. “We went in a hurry
between ’48 and ’50,” Richard recalls. That’s when most of those
warehouses were built, to help meet the post-World War II
housing boom. “There was a helluva scramble for housing,” says
Richard, who also remembers pouring the concrete footings for
their 16th Street office.
Returning soldiers qualified
for low-interest government loans, and could buy a lot and have
a two-bedroom house built on it for about $7,000”. Joseph, the
company’s founder retired in 1975. Michael says there is a niche
for a full-service lumberyard, despite competition from what he
calls “cash-and-carry” operations. “People don’t have time to do
anything anymore,” he says. “But if someone comes in here with a
problem, we can take care of them”. The lumberyard supplements
its crew with subcontractors, but customers wanting decks or sun
rooms or garages built or doors or windows installed have the
convenience of dealing with one person.