Bull Building Supply closing its doors

By ED HOWELL
Posted 5/14/17

Daily Mountain Eagle

Bull Building Supply in Jasper, which copied the big box concept of hardware stores for the local level and pioneered a long-time Crawfish Boil that attracted thousands of visitors, announced in a mailout Saturday it is …

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Bull Building Supply closing its doors

Posted

Daily Mountain Eagle

Bull Building Supply in Jasper, which copied the big box concept of hardware stores for the local level and pioneered a long-time Crawfish Boil that attracted thousands of visitors, announced in a mailout Saturday it is closing its doors.

The flyers stated the business that started in 1963 would be closed to the public Sunday through Tuesday and reopen Wednesday for the final sale.

Co-owner Bobby Bull, who owned the store with his brother, Ed, confirmed the closings Saturday in a phone interview, saying the final decision was made about a month ago.

“There were several factors that entered into our decision,” he said, pointing out health issues among the staff. No children were left to take over the business, as well.

“I guess you just get to a certain age that it is time,” he said, with a laugh. “We have a lot of good memories.”

However, he also pointed out recent business conditions in the area were a problem.

The big box warehouse concept that the store adopted led to big business for the company at one time. He said business in the 1990s and the early 2000s was “outstanding,” before the 2007 banking collapse and the Obama Administration taking office.

“Ever since Barack Obama took office, he waged war on business and the coal industry,” Bull said. “He has done everything he could to destroy our county. Nobody would ever believe that he would have that much of an effect, but he has. All the policies he had in place were detrimental to business, and the health insurance costs have just skyrocketed over the last six or seven years to where it is unreasonable, among other government regulations. So that has really hurt this area.”

Bull said he does feel that this area will economically rebound once new policies of tax cuts and health care changes that Bull expects in the future to take place.

The store was started by his father, J.C. Bull, on 19th Street in downtown Jasper in 1963 with one pickup truck, and a lot of help from his wife, Betty Bull. “We had four competitors on the same street,” he said.

In the late 1990s, downtown was starting to fade as business moved more to Highway 78 (now Highway 118), and the downtown site was short on space with only 1,200 square feet.

“We had a lot of warehouse space, but no display space,” he said.

More importantly, the Bulls asked their reps, who were working with Home Quarters Warehouse, about the larger big box concept that was also being adopted by Home Depot and Lowes.

“The do-it-yourself market had become so big,” he said. “That was where the trend was. We actually researched it for six months” before making a decision. “That’s where the industry was headed — a one-stop shop for everything, and also to be visual with everything, with not much warehouse and everything on the floor.”

The current location, with 55,000 square feet sitting on 12 acres, opened in 1992, he said. At its peak, it employed 20 people, although about 12 are employed there now.

Asked about his memories, he instantly recalled the Bull Crawfish Boil, which was a major event for 19 years.

“We cooked 3.5 tons of crawfish, 800 pounds of potatoes, 800 pounds of Polish sausage and thousands of ears of corn,” Bull said. “We did that for 19 straight years and that was so much fun. Our customers helped us put it on.”

The event started because of a painter here at the time named Reuben Paul, who was from Louisiana, he said. The year before the new store was built, Paul said he would bring back some crawfish, and did.

“On a Saturday morning, we cooked it out back and people ate it. When they came in, we would send them back there if they wanted some,” Bull said. “When we moved up here, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to have a promotion and set up vendors. We always had a fundraiser for a charity for many of those years — Daybreak for many of those years, and Relay for Life for some of it.

“We set vendors up and it became an event. We had some people come from as far as Florida, planning their vacations around it. It was a great selling period for us, too, as we would run sales. It was just a big hit. But, to tell the truth, it got to where it was overwhelming. The last year we had it, we had 17,000 people here throughout the day. It just got to be a lot.” 

The decision was made to suspend it in 2011. The weekend it would have been scheduled that year was the week that the April 27 tornadoes hit, Bull said.

“I always sweated the weather every year, and had to postpone it one time in 19 years,” he said. “But if we had done the 20th, it would have been the year those tornadoes devastated the area. We were without power for three days.” 

Asked about the biggest trend he saw in the hardware business, he pointed to the explosion in the size of residential homes.

“Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a 2,500-square-foot house was a big house,” Bull said. “And now the average house is a minimum of 3,500 square feet. It is not unusual for it to be 5,000 square feet. So the size of houses from the ‘70s and ‘80s to now is the biggest change.”

As for final thoughts, Bull said, “We just appreciate the customers who supported us all those years. They were very good to support us. We’ve had some great loyal customers, a lot of them who got old like we did and retired and moved on with their lives, too. We saw a lot of people who were children and wound up being our customers over those years. It has just been a great time for us over the years. We have got a lot of great memories of the area and the customers.”

As for the liquidation sale that starts Wednesday, Bull said the store will be open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day (except for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday).

Those hours will be in effect for several weeks, and then the hours may adjust as needed.

“This sale will run for several weeks until everything is liquidated. Also, all of our equipment will be for sale, including the chair I am sitting in now talking to you,” he said.

The Bulls can be reached at 205-834-4545, while the website is www.bullbuilding.com.