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Century-long era ends with closing of Boston Lumber

SoVaNow.com / May 14, 2018


Boston Lumber and its owner Leigh Felton finished up a long chapter Saturday when the venerable hometown business enjoyed its last day of being open for business.

Felton is at peace with the closing of the 100-year-old building supply store, and looking for direction as he considers his next step.

None of this means the closure of Boston Lumber has been easy to handle.

Boston Lumber has been a local institution for a century, after being started in 1918 by Felton’s great-grandfather, with multiple investors including W.S. Nichols.

The corporate name was Boston Lumber Builders’ Corporation, with sales of lumber and building materials and a construction company as well.

Raleigh M. Felton Sr. served as the first president.

He had recently come out of the U.S. Navy, after going to college at Bucknell. Felton played football and was an honorable mention all-American performer. He played offensive guard and weighed 183 pounds.

The Felton family came out of West Virginia. Felton built a home here and the business, and later bought out all of the stockholders. He passed away in 1971.

R.M. Felton Jr., Leigh’s father, took control of the company in 1971 and ran it until 1983, with his untimely passing.

In December 1983, Leigh Felton took over. He’s proud of the business career he built, and the legacy of the company.

“Even Billy Graham didn’t make it 100 years. We’ve done pretty good to make it this far,” said Felton.

Felton is appreciative of all of the employees of Boston Lumber, plus the many customers that the family-owned business has served over the years.

Felton is thankful that the community supported Boston Lumber, buying building materials and much more, for the construction of houses, businesses, and churches throughout the area.

“We’ve made our imprint on Halifax County and the surrounding counties,” said Felton.

At its peak, Boston Lumber served customers in almost eight counties in the region.

In 1994, Boston Lumber purchased White’s Building Supply in Keysville.

That store was sold in 2017 to Nelson and Beth Shook, and the Charlotte County firm continues in operation.

Boston Lumber helped people realize their dreams of home ownership. “A lot of the homes in Halifax County, we furnished the material,” said Felton.

Boston Lumber branched out to create a design center, with innovative new products and home decor.

Southside Virginia residents could also turn to Boston Lumber for comfortable, functional outdoor furniture to add to their patios and decks, along with a wide assortment of building products.

Leigh Felton invested 55 years in the company. He started when he was 15 years old.

He’s done it all — driving the forklifts, making deliveries, working in the shop and ultimately managing the company.

“The money we’ve made, we always put back into the business,” he explained.

“I feel like it’s my baby, it’s sad to see it come to an end.

“But there’s a season for everything,” said Felton.

“I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss the interaction with customers, and interaction with my employees. I’m thankful for the ones that have stayed with me here to the end, but we all have to move on,” said Felton.

Felton is sustained by his Christian faith as he deals with this new challenge in his life.

Felton says it was God who has kept him alive through medical troubles, including a December 2017 crisis when the almost died from a ruptured artery.

Felton is also philosophical.

“Tough times come to everybody at one time or another,” he said. “I have trusted (God) in the good times, and there have been a lot of good times in my life.

“There have been hardships. God has seen me through all of that ... Jesus promised he would never leave me, nor forsake me.

“I stand on that promise,” said Felton, who trusts he will find a new direction for the future.

His latest cause involves Christian service, and he has an eye on making his faith a core part of his next chapter in life.

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