A bottle of Coca-Cola at Wilson Lumber cost only 35 cents when Russ Wilson started working here circa 1989. He was just a kid back then, making a whopping $3.35 an hour working at the family business during summers, after school, and during breaks from school.
The son of an owner and the grandson of the founder, Russ grew up around the lumberyard. He remembers his grandmom making “the world’s greatest fried apple pies,” and he and his cousins would take them around the lumberyard selling them to workers for a nickel.
By the time Russ was old enough to pursue a career, he’d had enough of the lumberyard. “I’d shucked all the shingles and stacked all the lumber I wanted to, and I wasn’t coming back to Wilson Lumber,” he said.
He pursued – and earned – a degree in finance from Auburn University. He thought he wanted to be a banker and he knew he didn’t want to live in a big city. But after two years in a corporate environment, he missed the family-oriented culture of the family business. Not just blood relatives with the same last name but the family-like relationships with Wilson Lumber employees. Russ recalled giving a gift to long-time Wilson Lumber employee Toney Atchley on the birth of his son 25 years ago. Toney is a big Alabama fan; Russ is a big Auburn fan. Russ sent Toney a pair of Auburn baby socks, and Toney’s son is an Auburn fan to this day.
Russ came in as a sales coordinator, and for the first 10 years he worked for his dad, Rick. Over the years he’s moved around the company, dispatching trucks loaded with millwork, loading trucks with trusses, managing sales, and purchasing lumber. His current role is Director of Customer Engagement, a great fit for Russ who is very active in the Huntsville Madison County Home Builders Association, as was his dad before him. He’s served on the HMCBA board for 11 years and was instrumental in the creation of the North Alabama Home Building Academy.
“It’s about giving back,” Russ said of his involvement in the home builders association and NAHA. “It’s one way to invest in the industry that puts food on my table every day. It also gives me the opportunity to interact with customers and potential customers.”
Russ and his wife Stacey have been married 17 years. They have 3 children: Atticus, Eli and Eleanor. Their daughter has Down syndrome, which is something they weren’t prepared for but has been a blessing.
When he’s not buying lumber or meeting with customers, you can find Russ working in his yard, traveling with his family or attending a concert by The Avett Brothers. He’s seen the American folk rock band live in concert six times. “I just feel like they’re normal people. A lot of banjo and some screaming and they’re fun.”