Spahn & Rose hardware store buyer of Dunn Lumber

The retail store and corporate office are shown in Dubuque, Iowa, for Spahn & Rose Lumber Co., which was founded in 1904 and operates 23 stores in the Midwest. (Contributed photo/Regional News) 

Dunn Lumber, one of the oldest businesses in Lake Geneva, has been purchased by a company from out-of-state.

Spahn & Rose Lumber Co., based in Dubuque, Iowa, has acquired the Dunn Lumber hardware store and related businesses in Lake Geneva.

Spahn & Rose said it plans to maintain the store at 826 North St. and to make no changes in the operation — not even the name.

In announcing the deal, Spahn & Rose CEO Dave Davis called the Lake Geneva business “a natural fit” with the Iowa-based company.

“Dunn Lumber is a wonderful family business with the same corporate philosophy as Spahn & Rose: It treats customers like family,” Davis said.

The change of ownership took effect on Feb. 28 and and was announced the next day.

The announcement said that Dunn Lumber owners Mike and Terry Dunn, who are brothers, both were retiring after the sale.

Neither Mike nor Terry Dunn could be reached for comment.

Customers at the Lake Geneva store were stunned to hear that Dunn Lumber has new owners after more than a century in business.

Customer Ray Copeland said he has been impressed to see Dunn Lumber remain in operation over the years despite the arrival of Home Depot and other big-box competitors in the region. Copeland said he has remained a loyal customer.

“I like to support the local people,” he said.

Another patron, Fred Gahl, was also stunned to hear that another generation of Dunn family members would not be continuing the tradition.

“It’s surprising, because it’s a good business,” Gahl said. “But everything has its day.”

Founded in 1894, Dunn Lumber has its roots as a supplier of lumber and home-building materials during the early years of Lake Geneva development. Started by Edward F. Dunn, the business has been owned by the Dunn family ever since.

Helen Brandt, curator of the Geneva Lake Museum, said the hardware store and lumber yard is one of the oldest businesses in the city — if not the oldest.

Lumber from the Dunn family has been used in constructing many buildings in and around Lake Geneva, including some lakefront homes, Brandt said. She added that watching the store handed down from one generation to the next has endeared the business to area residents.

“It’s sort of neat,” she said. “It certainly gives the business a good name.”

Michael Jackson, board chairman for VISIT Lake Geneva, the local chamber of commerce, said he suspects that Dunn Lumber is the oldest family-owned business in Lake Geneva.

Jackson said the Dunn family has been an active supporter of the community, too. He extended gratitude to the family members for their years of civic spirit.

“I wish them well in the next adventure,” he said, “and am sure they made the right choice for the employees, themselves, the new owners, as well as the community.”

A sale price and other terms of the deal with Spahn & Rose were not disclosed.

Along with its 18,000-square-foot retail store on the edge of downtown Lake Geneva, the business includes lumber supplies, building materials, and equipment rental.

Spahn & Rose, which began in 1904, has 23 other locations in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, the closest to Lake Geneva being in Byron, Illinois, south of Rockford.

In an interview, Davis said he grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, and he visited Lake Geneva frequently. So when his company was looking to expand its geographic footprint in this part of Wisconsin, Dunn Lumber was an attractive prospect.

Spahn & Rose wanted to purchase a business that was profitable, and that melded with the culture of the Iowa parent company.

“Boy, does Dunn Lumber fit both of those things,” he said.

Spahn & Rose plans to retain all current employees in Lake Geneva and to continue the business without any disruption or fanfare.

Davis said he is confident that, even with the emergence of big-box retail chains, shoppers still appreciate visiting stores where employees offer a neighborly touch and personal service. Builders and others, he added, still see the benefits of doing business with an independent local lumber yard.

“Every town needs one,” he said.