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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.

RD August 15, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Yay! I looked forward to being a customer!
Kathryn August 15, 2012 at 02:48 AM
This is great news. I love the character of this building. So glad it will be preserved.
John Parulis August 15, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Thanks for keeping this landmark business going! Best of luck to all!
John August 15, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Wonderful story - love this family and their plan to rejuvenate the existing business.
Linda Lam August 15, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Jan and Matt - thank you for your investment in MV. From PTA at Tam Valley to now - the Mathew family has always made a difference!
Debra Inman August 15, 2012 at 03:53 AM
What great news! I too look forward to being a customer and am excited to explore the buildings. I am also glad to hear you will be adding artist spaces and more business as well. Hooray Mill Valley!
Marilyn B August 15, 2012 at 04:50 AM
I was born and raised in Mill Valley, my Dad arrived as a baby in 1903 from England, Mill Valley pioneers.....so relieved and excited that MV Lumber will live on! Thank you Matt and Jan Mathews!
Rhonda J. (Smith) McCormick August 15, 2012 at 09:04 AM
Fantastic news! Mahalo to the Mathews family for purchasing this wonderful historic building, and making plans to keep the business going. I was also born and raised in Mill Valley. My parents moved from Petaluma to Tam Valley in 1941. My father was a general contractor for many years. He bought lumber and other building supplies from the Mill Valley Lumber Company to build our first house on Marin Drive, along with a few other houses he built to sell. We moved into a very old house in downtown Mill Valley, on Throckmorton, in 1961. He did a huge renovation, but kept the old style charm. My parents have both passed away, and I moved to Honolulu 20 years ago. However, every time I go back for a visit, I always enjoy driving around Mill Valley, stopping to see friends and businesses I used to frequent, and I always smile when I drive by the beautiful old building that has housed the Mill Valley Lumber Company for so many, many years. Aloha, Rhonda McCormick
George Gordon August 15, 2012 at 01:15 PM
What can you say but Fantastic.
Mari August 15, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Nice to see some good news for a change. This will be my first choice for hardware and lumber!
Get In Shape For Women - Mill Valley August 15, 2012 at 03:38 PM
It's great to see an iconic Mill Valley landmark remain intact. Much thanks to the Matthews family for their commitment to the community - and in return - I look forward to making a concerted effort to support whatever business they choose to open at this location.
Larry the Hat Lautzker August 15, 2012 at 03:46 PM
There could be no greater outcome to what had become a troubling possibility. Matt and Jan are simply put, very savvy property developers with small town values. They will be great owners and will definitely create business that meets the needs of Mill Valley. They have shopped at my store Famous4 since I opened in 1989 and continue to support other local business. I've noticed these past few years that this isn't always the case. There are several properties owned by Mill Valley residents who do not shop locally. The Matthews are an example of all that's great about Mill Valley and other property owners and residents as well should follow their example. Shop Locally/Think Globally Congrats!!!!
Linda Rosso August 15, 2012 at 03:58 PM
This is the best real estate story in Mill Valley in a very long time. A win for everyone!
charles moore August 15, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Real Estate events are mostly symbiotic events where one settles or compromises for achieving the highest priorty things while letting go of less important. Then, once in a while, there are synergistic events where the manifestation of the perfect situation occurs: this is one where the perfect buyer met the perfect seller. The buyers are local folks, who shop locally, and intend to continue serving the Community. McGuire Real Estate represented the parties.
Betsy Bikle August 15, 2012 at 10:03 PM
This is really great. I hope the new owners will be a showcase for how to protect the stream when there is development grandfathered within the riparian protection zone. Also, as a homeowner fighting termites and bringing a 50's house up to modern code, I hope the new owners all the best in supporting green construction! Even if you don't have something immediately in stock, perhaps you can collect orders and save builders the expense of sending expensive workers up the highway. Another problem is recycling materials - where to store them? I hope you enjoy, as much as former owners did, the movement of wildlife through the stream corridor. Best leadership wishes!
Bob Silvestri August 16, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Matt and Jan Mathews... thank you!
bob bowen August 16, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Why don't they answer the phone?
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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