Bob and Stephanie Scruggs celebrate a century of building Jefferson City
In 1919, a promising young worker and Jefferson City resident named Cliff Scruggs garnered the support of investors and purchased a local branch of the Kansas City-based George Hope Lumber Company.
When the company came up for sale, citizens hoped that the business would be headed up by an area resident. Cliff had earned his stripes and proved his skill after serving as manager at the Ott Lumber Company in town. Following the sale, the name eventually changed to Scruggs Lumber Company, and it was passed on through the generations, with ownership falling to Cliff’s son, John, and later to John’s son, Bob.
100 years later, the Scruggs Lumber Company remains an institution. The business, now under the operation of Cliff’s great-granddaughter, Stephanie Scruggs, serves as a one-stop construction shop filled with colorful paint and tile samples, innovative flooring options, drafting services, and other resources that can help make a house feel like a home.
Stephanie’s dad, Bob Scruggs, remains an integral part of the team, though he handed over the official reins to Stephanie in 1994. Together, they stay abreast of what’s in vogue by attending trade shows, tuning in to webinars, and simply listening to their customers.
The projects they see now are significantly different than the ones Cliff helped with when the city was being built or those that John took on when he inherited the company and served young GIs looking for housing after returning from WWII.
The father–daughter duo notes that the rise in popularity of shows on HGTV and apps like Pinterest have changed the way people approach and think about their home spaces. But, following family tradition, Stephanie says they continue to focus on quality products, helpful service, and hiring the best people.
“It was instilled from Cliff to John to dad to me that our customers and our employees are the reasons that we’re still here,” Stephanie says. “We ask people how we can help.”
Family roots are important to both Bob and Stephanie. A conference room at their Christy Drive location is filled with black and white photos both of the Scruggs family patriarchs and the evolution of the city skyline.
Bob says he has crates of historic paperwork in the facility, including a yellowed bill of sale declaring the purchase of the company. Sometimes, area residents doing home repairs will come into the store with a piece of aged wood bearing the Scruggs’ label.
Stephanie says it’s moments like that, where she gets to connect with people, that help make work fun. Despite spending hours of her childhood on the showroom floor after school, Stephanie says she never expected to be running the business. In fact, in her youth, she had fantasies of turning it into a clothing and shoe store. After college, however, came an epiphany: She wanted to be back.
“You get more mature and you realize this is actually a really cool business,” Stephanie says. “It’s cool to be able to see somebody come in here and talk to my drafting department to build a house plan and then go through the process until they get the keys to move in.”
She says stepping into the leader role felt intimidating at first because Bob’s shoes were hard to fill. And in a male-dominated industry, she has encountered her fair share of skepticism, but Bob contends that she’s the perfect fit for the role.
“She has proven, well beyond a doubt, that she can do it,” he said.
The Scruggs family name is also familiar outside of the lumber world. Cliff wasn’t just known for his business; he played a pivotal role in the growth of Lincoln University. He served on its board of curators and, at a time when housing options for African Americans were limited by racism, pushed to expand home ownership, approaching bankers to secure better mortgages for LU professors and, in turn, keep them in town.
Today, a building on campus bears his name in recognition of that work. Stephanie says Cliff’s motivation was bigger than simply helping others: “He wanted Jefferson City to succeed.”
In recent years, the Scruggs family and the company as a whole have continued to support a variety of area organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, the Samaritan Center, 4-H, and the Tunnels to Towers Foundation. In 2006, they were recognized by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce as Small Business of the Year.
So what does the future hold for Scruggs Lumber? Bob and Stephanie say they’ll keep striving to adapt to new technologies and hire the people who can make things happen.
“We’re always going to be building houses,” says Stephanie. “We’re truly blessed that we’ve been able to keep this for 100 years.”