In the cool, quiet moments of fall in Paradise, they arrive. The sun has just barely peeked over the mountains to the east, promising them clear skies. At the corner of Pentz and Wagstaff, trucks line up outside the gate, waiting to pick up supplies for the day ahead.
The location, of course, is Foothill Mill & Lumber, a Paradise landmark since the late 1930s. What started as a planning mill eventually became a sawmill in the ’50s, adding hardware in the late ’70s and ’80s. Today, it continues its tradition of service as a lumber yard, mill, and hardware store for contractors and individuals rebuilding the town and their lives.
“We needed to be here,” said Marshall Ely, owner of Foothill Mill and lumber. The business has been in the Ely family since the late ’60s, so it was no surprise that many people asked when they’d be back. In December 2018, they were already up and running in a limited capacity; by May 2020, the lumberyard was back open for business.
“At first,” said Ely, “it was really challenging because I wanted everything the way it was before the fire. The whole family had built the business to where it was, and to have to start over from scratch was difficult.” As the Town started to recover and debris was removed, however, he saw it come to life again. “I realized it’s not going to be the way it was, and that’s okay. It’s an opportunity to do something new in a place I love. Paradise is my home.”
One of the biggest challenges in reopening was the shift in the communities needs. Business at Foothill Mill and Lumber has expanded. “Before, we were primarily a retail lumber and hardware store; now we’ve expanded and are filling the supply needs for contractors.
Ely and his longtime crew have big plans for 2022 including a new hardware building and continuing their service in the community. They’re excited to be a part of the physical rebuilding of Paradise. Despite supply shortages and cost increases, they work tirelessly to help every customer who comes through their doors. “We work diligently to serve all our customers and customize our service to meet their needs. It’s really fulfilling and always feels good when we can help people.”
Foothill Mill & Lumber is also proud to contribute to the economic development of the Town, as well, helping to supply items for new homes and businesses being rebuilt. They’re excited to see many of the traditional events coming back and see infrastructure projects come in. “Together, we’re working to make Paradise a place people want to come to.”
And for those who do decide to come to Paradise? Ely’s advice is to approach it the same way you’d eat an elephant: one bite at a time. “Plan. Be patient. Don’t give up. Just persevere. Paradise is going to be everything its name implies.”