William A. Geppert Sr. was part of the first generation of Geppert’s born in the United States, for his parents were immigrants from Germany. Starting at a young age, it was evident that William acquired a strong work ethic from his father and a love for his family. Known for his philanthropist’s ways, he was always willing to help and support the local community. William acquired many jobs throughout his years, but the one he excelled with the most was in the demolition business.
Beginning his journey in 1925, the patriarch William A. Geppert Sr. began with his love for the demolition industry, forming the Chestnut Hill Exaction, where William worked as a excavator and hauler. This role consisted of large jobs, such as tearing down estates and institutions, such as the Naval Ship Yard and the Henry Estate.
Working with a William established a salvage yard in Roslyn, where the remaining timber and salvage building materials from the demolition jobs were taken to for sale. At this location, the materials were sorted and separated, which consisted of, but not limited to, doors, windows, lumber, brick, stone and nails. It was then that William recognized the value of reclaiming the materials that could be utilized from the demolition jobs. Since there was a strong need for affordable building material in the Philadelphia area, the Roslyn location met the needs of those migrating from the city to the suburbs. This location met the needs of the struggling consumer of the Great Depression era and was a revoluntionary of recycling materials from destructed sites that would be resold at affordable prices.
The Beginning of a New Era
When William passed away in 1953, the salvage yard was taken over by one of his four sons, James Geppert, most commonly known as Gentleman Jim, who had worked as a crane operator in the demolition family business. Most recognized that Jim shared the same vision as his father, which would lead him to be the manager of yard. It was Jim’s innovational efforts and ideas that transitioned the salvage yard to a full fledge lumber yard, complete with a new hardware store and millwork, which shaped what is known today as Geppert Lumber. Jim was even bold enough to try his hand in the Beer industry and ended up opening his own business, Big Top Beverage, which to this day is owned and operated by his daughter and son-in-law! As for Jim’s brothers, they continued the demolition operation, which is still known today as Geppert Brothers.
After facing tragedy in October, 1969 when a fire destroyed most of the outside warehouse, Jim vowed that he would stay open, halting any interruptions in service. Determined as usual, Jim was quoted after the tragedy, stating “We will be open for business as usual.” And as promised, he rebuilt the warehouse and offices and kept trudging along.
As time progressed, the demand for building materials was at an all-time high for local contractors and the community. Thus, the company grew with the emergence of the Rental & Repair store in the mid-80s. To this day, Geppert Lumber is still the place to go for party rentals and construction-related equipment.
As time progressed and trends in the building material industry began to change, Jim kept up to date with new building materials at Geppert Lumber. To this day, you can tell Geppert Lumber still holds true to this through the display of the showroom and hardware store.
A Family Affair
James started his own family when he got married to Kathleen Hellwarth, their love was so real you couldn’t even compare it to a movie! Within a several years of married, they were blessed with nine children. A busy life one would say, but James and Kathleen loved every minute of it. Family was always Jim’s number one priority, and those showed through the family business, where five of his children are currently working, as well as four of his grandchildren.
After a long and determined fight of cancer, Jim passed away 2011. Jim left his legacy not only for the community and contractors, but more importantly, his family. A thriving material business, organized hardware store, a one of a kind showroom, and his most recent achievements, the rental store and Big Top Beverage.