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Almonte Couple Buys Historic Mill Valley Lumber Co. Property, Plan to Retain Current Use

Matt and Jan Mathews, who have lived in Mill Valley for more than 22 years, intend to continue the lumber, hardware and woodworking business and preserve the existing buildings in the middle of Miller Avenue.

The sale of the historic was finalized Tuesday, with new owners and longtime local residents Matt and Jan Mathews saying they plan to retain the current use, preserve the existing historic buildings and possibly add new businesses on the property.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The , which had owned the business and the property for the past 14 years but  after hemorrhaging money in recent years, had sought $1.4 million for the land.

At a brief reception hosted by at the 129 Miller Ave. property., the couple emphasized their understanding of the concerns of the community about the site, which . Matt and Jan Mathews have lived in Mill Valley for 22 years and said they've had a longtime love for the property and plan to keep its small-town feel. They also said that while they will maintain the current use, including partnering with a hardware brand, they hope to add new local-serving businesses there and possibly incorporate local artists and businesses in the future.

"As residents of Mill Valley, we want to involve the community in an open and cooperative way as our plans for preservation and re-use of the property develop," Matt Mathews said.

The couple plans to keep the existing name and display historical information to help customers and visitors learn more about the about the families and events that have shaped the important property. Built by lumber magnate Robert Dollar in 1892 as Dollar Lumber Company, it is one of the oldest and most obvious of all of Mill Valley's historical landmarks.

The couple's purchase and plans for the property are likely a welcome relief to many who feared that the prominent and historic property could turn into something the community didn't want. The property is zoned RM-3.5, which means residential multi-family with a minimum lot size of 3,500 square feet. Because of its residential zoning, many were worried that 129 Miller could turn into condos or single-family homes right in the middle of Miller Avenue.

A contractor and developer by trade, Eureka native Matt Mathews isn't new to the restoration game. He said he has renovated historic properties in San Francisco, Eureka and Sonoma.

"In the past we've bought brick and timber buildings in San Francisco that we seismically retrofitted and converted into office spaces, all while keeping the character," Matt Mathews said. "It's really what people desire, they want buildings with wood floors and high ceilings but they also want to be in a safe environment.".

The family owns a commerical property in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco, as well as properties in Sonoma County, Mathews said.

The Mathews family has had ties to the Lumber Co. since the early 1990s, when they first bought lumber there during the renovation of their Victorian home in Almonte behind Tam High.

When asked if anything was going to change, Mr. Mathews replied that things were not going to change, rather the site would "just get better."

"I grew up in Eureka and we had redwood trees in our front yard, I've always been attracted to this property, we had a business like this that's no longer there," he said. "It was part of the Pacific Lumber Company, they knocked it down and put a shopping center there. It was an icon that just disappeared."

Jan and Matt Mathews said the Lumber Co. will be operational with temporary hours within a week. They are looking to partner with a hardware specialist to run the nuts and bolts side of business, Matt Mathews said. The Cerri family, which owned the Lumber Co. for the past 14 years, had partnered with the True Value brand.

When asked about the competition and downtrodden economy Mathews didn't seem too concerned.

"Everyone knows what you can get at Home Depot," he said. "The symbol of Mill Valley is the symbol of this building and I think people will enjoy coming here, we'll have a different product mix, more tailored to Mill Valley and what the community wants." 

Jan and Matt's daughters, Jenelle and Macey Mathews, both attended . Jenelle Mathews will be returning to UC Berkeley to continue her undergraduate eduction this fall.

"Ace Hardware went out of business last summer, I think the demand is here for a store and finding the right product mix will be important," Matt Mathews said. "It has to be profitable so we can maintain the buildings."

"The Cerri's were very generous, they left everything intact. It's like a museum in here," he continued.

"We hope to showcase it more," Jan Matthews added.

Thrasy Bulus August 16, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Great news. This was always the best use for that property and should remain so into the distant future.
Rico August 17, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Hi Betsy, Are you the person who walks around M. V. Heights and cuts french broom and other invasive vines, and then chucks them into the middle of the streets ? If so, could you please toss them out of the roadway. What you do is a hazard to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, and doesn't look good either. And those wet slimy vines can rot the roadways. Mahalo.
L Beaton August 17, 2012 at 03:58 AM
On behalf of "Save Mill Valley Lumber Company", my very great thanks! This is exactly the news that we were hoping for. Laurie Beaton https://www.facebook.com/SaveMillValleyLumberCompany
Anne Tique August 18, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Yayyyyyyy! And thank you!
Jim Oliveira September 13, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Thank you so much Mathews Family. From a third generation Mill Vallian.

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