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C&E Lumber: an awesome rare commodity

Mom-and-pop businesses hold a quintessential American charm, and in Claremont we are lucky to have several of these increasingly rare commodities.

But just outside of the City of Trees lies one of the longest running but perhaps lesser well-known members in good standing of that club: C & E Lumber. If you’ve been missing the quality customer service found at a family-owned hardware store since Powell’s closed in 2003, this is your place.

C & E has been in business at the same 2692 N. Towne Ave. location in Pomona since 1954. It’s an anomaly in several ways, but primarily in that it’s a stand-alone neighborhood hardware store and lumber yard where, unlike the warehouse home improvement superstores we need not name, one can get immediate help in finding that elusive plumbing fitting or with matching a paint color.

And that’s not all. Claremonter Matt Moraga leases a small outdoor space for the Wildwood Nursery, which offers native plants, fruit trees and free range chicken eggs.

It’s sort of the opposite of walking into the massive chain stores and being overwhelmed by the pallet racks stocked floor-to-ceiling but nary an employee in sight.

“We’re here to help the community,” said third-generation C & E owner Bryan Callaway. “We’re here for everybody—from the new homeowners that have never done any DIY to the older clientele that have already done all that and they’re doing their own projects around the house.”

The charming store, with its funky décor and antique hardware implements lining the walls, feels like a throwback in the warmest sense of the word—a large, old-fashioned percolator stands sentry at the checkout counter with free coffee for everyone. Try finding that at Home Depot. 

I’ve been to C & E at all hours looking for everything from help with a slow tub drain—the clerk told me to buy a $3 plastic “zip-it” instead of the much more expensive cable snake, and it worked perfectly—to wheels for a road case. Always, every time, the C & E staff has been there to ask if I am finding what I need. It’s comforting.

Mr. Callaway acknowledges it’s hard to compete with the buying power of the big boys, but C & E has something they can’t ever match. “We kill ‘em with customer service,” he said.

It’s true. And then there are the intangibles like somebody knowing your name when you walk in the door. It’s like “Cheers,” but with sawdust on the floor from real saws. It’s yet another Claremont-area treasure, and It’s Awesome!

C & E Lumber is at celumber.com or (909) 626-3591.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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