Benson’s Lumber & Hardware Celebrates Century Mark

It isn’t often that a family business reaches the century mark, but Benson’s Lumber and Hardware is celebrating that anniversary this week.
The company was founded in 1913 in Derry by George W. Benson to provide coal and lumber to residents of Derry and surrounding towns. Benson’s Lumber was taken over by George’s son, Grant Benson, several years later.

According to Derry Town Historian Rick Holmes, in 1915 the three Benson brothers, George, Harry and William, all had businesses in Derry. George Benson, who before starting Benson Lumber was a foreman at a local shoe factory, began selling lumber and building materials at his business at 11 Martin St. in 1913. Harry Benson was a druggist at 4 West Broadway and William Benson had a news and stationery business and was postmaster at 2 West Broadway.
“The Benson family has always loved the town,” said Holmes. “Grant Jr. not only loved the town but liked this town, as the whole family has and does.”
Much of Benson’s Lumber was destroyed during a Christmas week fire in 1943 but was quickly rebuilt. Holmes documented the tearing down in 1967 of the old warehouse building on Martin Street that had housed Benson’s and the L.H. Pillsbury Furniture Co. before that for 80 years, making way for a 30-foot by 70-foot warehouse for the business.
Today, Benson’s Lumber and Hardware is still located at 11 Martin St., with a second location at 20 Orchard View Drive in Londonderry.
Grant Benson Jr. took over the business in the mid-1950s, and his sons Grant Benson III and Brad Benson assumed the reins in the early 1980s, joined shortly thereafter by their youngest brother, Scott Benson. The three Benson brothers now run the business together.
All three say they are excited to have reached the century milestone but more importantly, they all expressed gratitude that their father had lived to see his dream of reaching the 100th year.
“It meant everything to my dad to see us reach the 100th year,” Brad Benson said. “My dad his whole life wanted to make it to the 100th year, and it is nice he was able to. He was proud that the family had been able to continue in business for 100 years.”
Grant Benson Jr. died Feb. 23, 2013.
Brad Benson said he was headed to a career on Wall Street when his brother Grant called and asked him to come home and help him run the business.
“I did and I am still here,” Brad said, as is Grant.
The Benson brothers all worked in the business during the summers they were in school and college. Today, Grant’s daughter Victoria, a college student, works part time in the Benson’s business office, and Brad’s older son Andrew worked in the Garden Center during the summer.
“There’s always a possibility of a fifth generation taking over the business,” Scott said. “You never know.”
Grant agreed, saying,” If it works, that would be great but if not, we’ll deal with that when we get there.”
“My take on a fifth generation is Andrew, Chris, Victoria should do whatever makes them happy,” Brad said. “If they find their passion, they should pursue it.”
But Brad is pleased the business has remained in the family so far. “I love going to work and being able to work with my family,” said Brad, who serves as a Derry Town Councilor. “I am a lucky guy to be able to have this good relationship with my brothers and to have such great employees.”
Grant noted, “There is a lot of history in Benson’s because we are so diverse, but it is a great place to work. I have enjoyed all aspects of working for the business and it is really great to work with my two brothers.”
Scott said only 5 percent of family businesses survive to the fourth generation and only 2 percent make it to the fifth.
“I am pretty proud of the fact that we have reached this anniversary and the fourth generation is still running the business, and that we are close both socially and business-wise,” he said.
“It is the people who have made Benson’s what Benson’s is,” Grant said. “It is wonderful how loyal the town has always been and how good the customers are, and we have great employees. It is great to be part of this community that supports us and which we support. We donate to all sorts of things in town and support our community, something which has gotten lost in a lot of companies.”
The brothers all attribute the business’s longevity to the loyalty of the community and their customers, and to the fact that the business has always had as a cornerstone giving back to the community in as many ways and as often as possible.
Scott, who lives in Londonderry, added, “We as a business and a family contribute a lot to the community without drawing much attention to it, but we try to give back as much as we can. The community has been extremely loyal.”
Brad noted a major change from the time his grandfather and father ran the business to today. He said in the past, major contractors had a key to the store, and it was not unusual to find them there getting supplies on a Sunday. The changes, he said, are part of the culture of the times, adding, “No one has keys any more.”
George W. Benson’s dream of a simple lumber and coal business has expanded over the past century under the leadership of his son Grant, his grandson Grant Jr., and now his great-grandsons, Brad, Grant and Scott Benson.
Benson’s today is much more than lumber and building materials. It has a garden section and a sports equipment section in addition to doors and windows, flooring, hardware, kitchen and bath items, lumber and building materials, millwork, outdoor living, outdoor power tools, power tools, and paint.
In honor of reaching the century mark, the brothers have decided to pay it forward and celebrate the weekend of Sept. 28 and 29 at both store locations.
Scott said free burgers and hot dogs, soda, cotton candy and popcorn will be available at both locations both days, with no purchase necessary. They will offer drawings for such items as a Weber grill and power tools and for five $100 gift cards, as well as offering door prizes, free give-aways and several promotions. One such promotion involves a customer being able to fill a 5-gallon bucket with whatever fits, for a discount of 19.13 percent at the cash register – rounded up to 20 percent.
“We are hoping these specials can give something back to our faithful customers and at the same time bring in some new customers and maybe bring back some customers who haven’t been in recently,” Scott said.