Unrelated to the woes at the casino, Chukchansi Inc. has sold one of its off-reservation assets, Yosemite Lumber, to James Bates of Yosemite Lakes Park.
On Jan. 1, Bates, 47, became the official owner of Yosemite Lumber. Bates has worked at the business since 1986 when it was still under the ownership of his aunt and uncle, Everett and Carolyn Plum. The couple bought the company from the original owner, Carolyn Baker, in 1985.
Chukchansi Inc., the economic development arm of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, purchased the company in 2010 as a community business venture to diversify the tribe’s assets.
The 50-plus year company was originally opened in 1955, was sold to the Plums in 1985, and was sold to BMC West in 1992. The lumber yard was temporarily closed in 1995 and was repurchased later that year. It was then sold to Chukchansi in 2010 and has found its way back into the hands of long-time employee Bates.
Bates has changed the name of the business back to Yosemite Falls Lumber - the original name in 1960. Bates said aside from the name change, he plans to keep everything mostly the same.
“I think we have a great crew right now who are personable and easy to deal with. I think they are good at waiting on the customer. They have a lot of experience ... one gentlemen has 20 years experience and another couple of employees have close to 15 years experience,” Bates said.
Bates’ main motivation for purchasing the community land mark is to preserve the history and continue providing services to the community.
“Its been in the community for so long and needs to be in the community and stay operating,” Bates said. “I think we do a good job servicing the community and we want to keep that relationship going.”
Chukchansi‘s outside investments include Native American Coffee Company, The Way, The Sportmen’s Den, Chukchansi Gaming, Chukchansi Linen, Blue King, Willow Glenn Smoke Shop, FOI Commercial Interiors, Mighty Oak Capital, and Mighty Builders. There is no word on whether or not the investment firm will be interested in selling off its other off-reservation assets.
Bates said the plans have been in the works for several months but the official title was transferred on Jan. 1.
Roger Schneider, who was commissioned by Chukchansi to find a buyer and dispose of the business, said as soon as Chukchansi contacted him about the sale he knew precisely who he wanted to buy the business.
“I was commissioned by the Chukchansi to dispose of the business and I only had one target and it was James, I knew he was the right guy for the job,” Schneider said. “I have been here since 1957 and I know all the previous owners ... James has worked there for 20 years and he’s a remarkable young man. I’m glad to see him reach the level of owner and operator, and I think the community will feel the same ... he’s back where he belongs.”
Bates said the lumber company will continue to provide its services, including selling concrete, lumber, light switches, electrical tools, and paint.
Yosemite Lumber provides local building materials and lumber to contractors, home owners, maintenance and handy men.
“We have everything you need to build a home or start a business,” Bates said enthusiastically.
Bates said he has seen the lumber company thrive during an economic boom and seen the hardships faced after the economy collapsed in 2008. He will take what he has learned and try his hand at the business. He hopes this will be a fixture of the community and said the experience has given him the knowledge necessary to deal with tough times.
“There is no better teacher than experience,” Bates said.
Bates said the lumber company differs from other companies in that they provide local services and a higher quality product at a lower cost.
“I want to keep it open to service the community. I try to have a better quality lumber for some of the projects where appearance is key,” Bates said.
Bates wants the community to know that he is going to do everything in his power to ensure that Yosemite Lumber remains a pillar of the community.
“With me working here for 28 years, I think a lot of people in the community know I am here and I want to let them know I plan to stay here and service the community.”
A sale price was not disclosed.