Links above open up a 20 minute feature filmed
about our operation in a seperate window in Youtube.
By Ron Carson ,STRATFORD BEACON HEARLD 12/14/99
SEBRINGVILLE - With its roots in the 19th century and its
heart in the 20th century, Hoffmeyers here has leaped into
cyberspace to meet the 21st century.
In a 115-year-old planing mill where two father-son teams work
side by side, where a mill cat named Rabbit greets customers,
where the planing equipment looks older than the historic building,
and where the smell of wood and sawdust smacks of a gentler era,
who would expect the Internet to be mentioned let alone be relevant?
But there it is not really visible like the piles of wood, window
frames and doors but more a part of the enthusiasm given off by
Hoffmeyers owner, 55-year-old John Ogilvie, and his 29-year-old
As expected, it was the younger Ogilvie who got dad hooked on
cyberspace. Reg set up a Web page for the business as a
birthday present all of a sudden, Hoffmeyers joins the global
village and at the same time remains a solid part of this village
(Se-bringville), said John, who also employs the father-son
team of Carl and Steve Strasser. Carl has been with the mill for
23 years and his son Steve for 20 years.
Computer hound Reg proudly declares the mill has shipped a
door to Holland, a bench to England, doors to Orlando, Fla., and
windows and screens to California all because of Net sales.
Weve even had an order for literally a boatload of
wood for a Caribbean customer who obviously was confusing us with
a lumber giant, ex-plained John, who bought the business
in 1974 not knowing pine from spruce.
John said if it hadnt been for the patience of the previous
owners, brothers Carl and Otto Stoskopf, he still wouldnt
know the difference. Otto stayed with John for about eight years
until he learned the mill business. John also credits retired
mill employee Stan Schellenberger with teaching him the ropes.
They treated me like a son, said John.
Its that kind of loyalty and old-fashioned paternalism that
makes the Ogilvies leap into cyberspace more astonishing.
But then John knows the times have changed and he sees the future
of the mill in the hands of his computerliterate son. Reg has
worked with his father for 12 years and before that on Saturdays.
At the same time the mill was getting on line, John and Reg decided
the business could no longer compete in the lumber business
against the major building material chains. So the Ogilvie's decided
to cut out their own market niche using the tools and skills they
know and do best.
We dont sell shingles, insulation and drywall anymore
... what we now do is specialty work like wood moldings, doors,
cabinets and authentic reproductions, explained Reg. Theres
a market out there on the Net and in Ontario that wants specialty
woods and wood products .We are doing business in the States because
of the exchange rate and lack of specialty mills in certain
parts of the U.S.
While leafing through letters of thanks from Net customers, John
said there is such a need for special jobs that one customer requested
a door like the one on Fryfogel Tavern. So he went out with his
tape measure, made some sketches and produced the desired reproduction
look. The Ogilvie's are also connecting with Stratford and area
builders who have their own carpentry shops but lack some
tools for special jobs. That business is coming our way,
added John. The mill continues to cater to area wood hobbyists
who require special grades of wood and special milling needs.
But all the specialty skills and the Net have not erased the 19th
century charm of. the building which is currently up for consideration
for a historical designation. The Ogilvie's are more than happy
to show curious customers or even Festival visitors around their
mill with an introduction to mill cat Rabbit, who acquired his
name because of the way he hopped as a kitten.
They proudly show visitors the original product -wooden water
pumps that were originally made in the mill from 1874 to 1905.
Henry Hoffmeyer changed the mill operations to a plaining mill
when he opened the mill in 1906 as the demand for wood well pumps
ceased. Henry turned the business over to his son Lorne in 1926.
Lorne sold the business to his nephews Carl and Otto Stoskopf
in 1949. The brothers owned the business until 1974 when John
Ogilvie stepped in.
While John shows no signs of retiring, its clear that Reg
is steering the business - at least in cyberspace. If you want
to connect with them on the Web the address is www.hoffmeyersmill.on.ca
If you want to connect with the 19th century, you cant miss
them on a drive-by through Sebringville.
A dovetail joint is a strong and smooth way to join two pieces
of wood. It's the same qualities John Ogilvie and son Reg aimed
for in the transition of their family-run business.
Ogilvie Planing Mill Ltd. -- better known as Hoffmeyer's --
officially changed hands Jan. 3, with Reg taking over from his
father, who stays on as an hourly employee.
Succession planning -- or carrying on business from one generation
to another -- is one of the toughest challenges faced by family-owned
According to international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers,
only three in 10 survive one generation. The number falls to just
one in 10 that make it to the next generation.
"This isn't a Prince Charles situation where I'm going
to stay as the owner," said John, 60.
But neither is the business being handed to his son on a silver
The Ogilvies planned out the ownership change carefully, seeking
the help of the business's longtime lawyer and accountant.
Reg and wife Ruth Ann become the principal shareholders, buying
the shares from John and wife Sharon, who hold the mortgage as
their retirement income.
Using their home equity for the business loan mimics what
John and Sharon did when they bought the business in 1974, right
down to the plan to have Reg and Ruth Ann buy their house behind
"The fella that's owned the house has always owned the
mill," John said smiling.
The plan has a folksy quality. It fits right in at Hoffmeyer's.
The mill on Highway 8 in Sebringville is as close to a bona
fide, working historical site as there is. Many of the machines
are antiques, driven by belts connected to a mainline shaft that
dates back to the 1870s.
The Ogilvies are proud of the century-old craftsmanship that
goes into the custom wood doors, windows, mouldings, trim and
flooring that are the business's main products.
"You know the cliche, 'They don't make it like they used
to' -- well, we do," Reg said.
"When we make a door, we're making a door like it was
made 90 years ago, 100 years ago ... it's one man on a bench and
some wood," he said.
Nearly all of the fine millwork is done by Carl Strasser and
son Steve. Carl started soon after John bought the mill and Steve
came aboard a few years later.
Corey Mielke is the newest employee. Hoffmeyer's is putting
its former high school co-op student through a carpenter apprenticeship
at Fanshawe College in London.
Keeping the company's employees happy is a priority, Reg said.
John thinks the business is being left in good hands. Reg,
although just turned 35, is in his 18th year with the business
he joined straight out of high school.
"I'm proud of him because he's honest. If he says something
you can bank on it. That might be sort of old-fashioned ... and
he's not afraid to work," the father said about his son.
Reg said he most wants to emulate his dad's focus on customer
"You've got to listen to the customer and be thorough.
Make sure that everything is good with them and follow up,"
Hoffmeyer's was established in 1906 by Henry Hoffmeyer. It
was previously a wooden well-pump factory. His son Lorne took
1926 and ran the business
until 1945. He sold it to his nephews, Carl and Otto Stoskopf.
John passed a significant threshold last August. With 30 years
at the helm of Hoffmeyer's, he had owned the business longer than
any of the Hoffmeyer clan and the Stoskopfs.
"I was proud of that," he said.
But not all the times were as sweet.
In the early '90s, the business found itself at the brink.
Back then, Hoffmeyer's still sold general building supplies and
power tools but was finding it harder and harder to compete against
large volume retailers.
John made the bold decision to specialize in custom wood millwork
and supply top-quality finishing wood to contractors, do-it-yourselfers
Going online in 1997, which was Reg's doing, helped the business
carve out its market niche.
Today, Internet sales account for between 40 per cent and
50 per cent of the company's business.
"We get about 100 people a day viewing our website,"
The Web brought customers from across North America to Hoffmeyer's.
A map on the office wall has coloured pins representing orders
all through the United States. Farther afield, shipments have
gone to England and Netherlands.
Reg said his plan is to grow the business, but in measured
To begin with, he wants to increase Hoffmeyer's local exposure.
"A lot of people in Stratford don't know what we do here,"
"I don't want to become 10 stores with 50 people under
me, but I'm going to try to expand it slowly over time."
photo by Brian Shypula
John Ogilvie and son Reg are framed by a fir door made at Ogilvie
Planing Mill Ltd. -- better known as Hoffmeyer's. Reg took over
Hoffmeyer's, which makes custom wood doors, windows, mouldings,
trim and flooring at its century-old mill, from his father earlier
Emerson Drive shot their hit country music video at our mill
in March 2006. If you look closely you will see 4 of us in the
See us featured in the September
8th,2006 edition of the
By MIKE BEITZ STAFF REPORTER
Stratford Beacon Herald
When Paul and Vanessa Eckert look back on their wedding day, they'll
remember the picturesque outdoor setting. They'll remember the
chirping of birds and the hum of the cicadas on a warm summer
evening, family and friends looking on as they exchanged their
vows under a lovely canopy of trees. And they'll remember the
sweet smell of sawdust and wood shavings. The Dublin-area couple
was married Saturday in a unique ceremony behind Hoffmeyer's Mill
in Sebringville. It's not the first place that comes to mind when
most people think of the ideal wedding spot, but for a couple
that first met in a cabinet making course at Fanshawe College
and share of love of woodcraft, it was a perfect dovetail fit.
"When Paul proposed, that was the only place that I could
think of that really meant anything to the both of us and would
tie in our woodworking connection," said the bride-to-be
before the ceremony Saturday. "It's a unique spot,"
he added. "And it's definitely not a traditional place for
The couple are regular customers at the planing mill, which
traces its history back to the 1870s and still has century-old
equipment turning out things like custom wood mouldings, doors
and windows. It's known as Hoffmeyer's, but the Ogilvie family
has owned and operated it for some 37 years now. "We've had
a lot of interesting things happen here over the years, but never
a wedding," noted owner Reg Ogilvie, who along with his wife
Ruth Ann, purchased the mill from his parents John and Sharon
When the bride-to-be first approached him with what she suggested
would be a unique request, he smiled to himself. "I thought,
we've been here a while. We've heard them all. We made a cage
for a monkey one time. We made a diving board for a swimming pool.
What else could you throw at us?" he recalled. "And
then she asked if they could get married here and I smiled and
said, yeah, we haven't heard that one before." He immediately
agreed. "It's kind of a compliment,"said Ogilvie. "The
mill here is one-of-a-kind, and if people want to come here for
that reason, it makes it all that much more worthwhile."
It was about five years ago that Canadian country western
band Emerson Drive used Hoffmeyer's as the setting for one of
their music videos, drawn by the mill's rustic old-world charm.
And having a wedding at Huron Road landmark -- the ceremony was
actually held on the grounds behind the mill, with the newlyweds
posing for photos in and around the mill itself -- highlights
the direct, personal approach Ogilvie likes to take with his business.
"We like to think we'll go the extra mile for our customer,"
he said with a chuckle.
You may download a short TV commercial
we produced here. It is 1.4 megs and will play on any mpeg viewer
or windows media player. By the time you have looked over our
site , it will be uploaded.
RIGHT CLICK the link "download
here" below AND CHOOSE "save
target as" to
download (especially if you are on 56k or slower dial up modem
connection using W95).
if you are on high speed Cable /DSL
or using Windows98 or higher ,just click the link directly and
your Windows Media Player should open the following link: