Knowing Your Neighbors: Lester River Sawmill Under New Ownership

DULUTH, Minn. — Lester River Sawmill has been in operation for over 40 years and just recently went through a change of ownership. You might ask what inspires someone to purchase a sawmill, but for new owner Will Feyder, it was the next logical step in this chapter of his life.

“I got interested in sawmilling about five years ago, five, six years ago probably, from a windstorm back at my parents, and lots of trees came down in that and it got my wheels turning of what people do with downed trees other than burn them,” said Feyder.

Shortly after that experience, Will got into the industry running a portable sawmill company in Duluth. After learning more about sawmilling over the next few years, the opportunity came to purchase a brick-and-mortar location.

Feyder explained, “This has been the goal for, basically since I kind of started. I wasn’t sure what it was going to turn into in the early days, but the goal has been to move to a bigger operation.  I always assumed that was going to be more organic, I guess, and I would start to buy some land and work my way up from there, but this is kind of a big jump from what I was doing before to a much bigger operation. Just trying to get my feet under me here, but the opportunity is incredible and I’m very excited.”

You can certainly get some of the more traditional lumber yard cuts if you want, but their specialty is more towards garden variety projects such as chicken coops or hobby wood working. These cuts will give your project a more natural or rustic look.  You will also find that a majority of the wood is sourced from northern Minnesota be it birch, ash, or pine. But whatever your needs happen to be, the project is just as important as the product.

“One thing that I love about being here is just hearing people’s projects and hearing what their ideas are and what they are trying to do,” said Feyder.

Owning and operating a sawmill is quite the change of pace for Will.  He spent eight years working 9-5 in an office as an engineer but becoming self-employed is something he had thought about a lot.

“One reason that I kind of wanted to go down the self-employed road was for my family as well.  I like to include them in as much as I can, they’re young. I have two little kids, and so I’d like to have them around here too and they come up for lunch and other things. And as they grow, I’d like to have them more involved as well, and that’s not so easy in an office setting,” said Feyder.

If you have a project you are working on and want to chat, or if you are just curious about how a sawmill works, Will would love to have you stop by Monday through Friday from 8 until 4, and Saturday from 8 to 12, or so.

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