July 20, 2015
TRUCKEE, Calif. — When it comes to family business, responsibility and legacy may go hand in hand.
That legacy and a responsibility to maintain and move that business into a new era is at the heart of Truckee Tahoe Lumber Company's Cross family.
With the company in its 84th year of business, Embree "Breeze" Cross and his son, Andrew, are reflecting on its history while also looking toward the future, which includes expansion to its now six-month-old new Sparks location, 1550 Hymer Ave.
As the company evolves, Andrew (company president/CEO) and his brother, Ira (company vice-president) — both fifth generation California lumbermen — see the Reno-Sparks market as a next natural step.
Andrew earned his degree in engineering from the University of California, Davis, and an MBA from University of Nevada, Reno. Before taking on his current role with TTLC, he was a project manager for a Reno-based development engineering company, designing subdivisions.
Ira, meanwhile, earned his engineering degree at UNR and went on to earn his MBA there as well.
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"Reno is a growing community," Breeze Cross said. "There is availability; there is affordable land; there is a housing base, an employment base."
Breeze, now retired, sees a lot of tract building occurring in Reno. There is also custom home construction, a niche TTLC has been involved in as a corollary to its remodel work.
Ira and Andrew represent the next generation to hold the company's top leadership positions, left to them by Breeze, who was born into his father's business and his father before him.
And so on, down the line it goes, dating all the way back to 1902, when Charles Burton Cross, the youngest son of Charles Marion Cross, began helping his father's San Francisco-based lumber business.
Breeze and Andrew Cross recently sat down for a Q-and-A about the company's past, present and future.
SIERRA SUN: HOW DID YOU GUYS GET STARTED IN THIS BUSINESS?
Breeze: I was born into the business. Growing up in Tahoe City, at 12 years old, I was sweeping floors and stocking lumber in our Tahoe City store, and I just grew up in the business.
Andrew: I was born into the business too. Instead of getting baby sitters, our parents had us working out in the yard. We did that until we were 18, when we were pushed to go to college. Both Ira and I got engineering degrees. We were engineers for a time, when we got offered opportunities to come back into the business after we earned our MBAs. We had to start from the bottom and work our way back up.
SUN: WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT THAT IRA AND ANDREW HAVE WORK EXPERIENCE OUTSIDE THE FAMILY BUSINESS?
B: I felt saddled by the business when I came in. I was 21 years old and I had no real interest in running and operating Truckee Tahoe Lumber Co. But I kept finding things that needed to be done. As I began doing them, I found it difficult to back out of the position. By 1975, I was running the company. I feel I was fortunate that I was able to grow and mature inside the business, but I really wanted the boys to establish themselves as men in the world before they came into the business. That way if they came in, they would be coming in with the confidence and knowledge that they're successful in their own right.
A: It was important that we learn to be able to show that we could achieve things on our own without it being handed to you.
SUN: HOW HAVE YOUR EXPERIENCES PREPARED YOU FOR THE FUTURE OF THIS BUSINESS?
A: We'll always have a base up here in remodel, tear down and rebuild — that type of construction. To continue to grow, we are going to need to find new markets and be flexible.
SUN: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO KNOW YOU ARE THE FUTURE OF THIS BUSINESS?
A: I love it. I want the responsibility. It doesn't scare me; it doesn't bother me.
B: I'm grateful to no longer have the responsibility. I wore that mantle for 40 years. I was ready to lay it down, because it's a heavy mantle. There is juice sitting in the chair, making the decisions, but it is wearing. I was grateful to see the boys reach that point of maturity to where I could feel comfortable in passing the mantle.
A: To carry that weight on our shoulders, it feels good that I can take it off of dad's. I'm glad I can alleviate that tension. That said, I will probably want to pass that on in 20 years; I'll be ready.