The Short Story of Richmond Supply Company

There aren’t many people still living who can tell the stories of life during the Great Depression and World War II. My generation’s understanding of the years spanning 1930-1945 is based on what we’ve heard from our parents and grandparents.

It’s hard for me to imagine a level of poverty so broad that it would touch most every #American and a War that changed every life. But the people who did live to see America plunge into darkness and then boldly recover, bore witness to some of her worst and best times.

My father was just a child during the Depression. #Poverty, or at least some level of it, was really the only life he knew growing up. But he didn’t consider himself poor. Everyone was in the same boat. In those days nobody had any money.

My father’s life as a youth was really quite sweet and idyllic, or at least that’s how I understand it. He talks of his friends and his family, of his cousins and their many escapades. He speaks of those times as the #GoodOleDays. He misses them. He misses his family, most of them now gone.

In those early times, there was no television or air conditioning. There were few paved roads and some still rode horses to town. Summers were hot in the small mid-#Georgia town of #Sandersville where my father and his family grew up. But being hot wasn’t anything that a dip in the river wouldn’t cure. Bare feet were more common than those with shoes. And tobacco spit was the biggest hazard to walking downtown.

It was during those times and in that small town setting that my grandfather Levi Hill Jr. found various things to do in order to make ends meet. He worked for a while with his father as a farmer and a general store operator. And then at some point he began selling and servicing coin operated pool tables and vending machines. It was in the mid nineteen forties that he found a steady position in the nearby city of #Augusta selling industrial mill supplies for a company called #Lombard Iron Works.

Lombard was primarily a foundry. They also made and sold parts for heavy machinery. The job of selling mill supplies was perfect for my grandfather. He had studied engineering at #Clemson University, was good with numbers and had a natural talent for machine works. In addition, he was an excellent salesman who never met a stranger.

It wasn’t long before he and one of his fellow salesman decided to form a partnership and go it alone. In 1942 they started their own mill supply company in Augusta, naming it Richmond Supply (for the county of its location, Richmond). For a year or two they successfully operated their partnership until my grandfather offered to buy out his partner. Richmond Supply Company has been in our family since that time.

When Levi Jr first started the business the first thing he did was purchase an old brick building that became his warehouse. It was located on 7th street, just a few blocks down from his earlier employer Lombard Iron Works. This building, while old even at that time, had plenty of space and was well suited for warehousing all kinds of industrial supplies — sprockets, chain, bearings,drive belts, tools, pipe fittings, planer knives and saw bits.

Richmond Supply on 7th street thrived, supporting the area’s sawmills, foundries, and textile mills with supplies necessary to keep their operations going. As the United States entered the war, the military’s need for products escalated and so manufacturers were busy. #Steel parts were needed, textiles, lumber — most every resource that our country could provide, the military needed. The Great Depression had come to an end and the United States was at war.

Having learned a little something about the lumber business from a friend of his in his hometown of Sandersville, my grandfather also started a lumber sales operation in conjunction with #Richmond Supply. Quite naturally, he called it Richmond Lumber and found success too in this business. With a natural gift for salesmanship, he began moving truckloads of pine and hardwood lumber to the building trades all over the South. Operating those two businesses for a period of time, he welcomed his son (my father), Levi III to the business in 1951

Levi Hill III joined Richmond Supply after a time in the U.S. Air Force and a short period working for Savannah River Site, otherwise known as “the bomb plant.” He was enthusiastic about the mill supply business and himself a natural salesman and all-around gentlemen.

My father believed in having inventory and servicing the customers quickly and with high quality products. He had an innate understanding of how to provide the greatest value to the customer.He sought the best products that industry had to offer and the best people to sell and support them.

At Richmond Supply, my father built a reputation for service, know-how and and high quality products. He grew the business at Richmond Supply into a very successful distribution company selling a multitude of products from a large local inventory. He felt that our customers were our friends, and he enjoyed the opportunity to help them.

In the early 1970s my father had the foresight to open a #Rubber Division in order to supply hose and conveyor belting to industry. Located in its own building just across the street from Richmond Supply, the Rubber Division also grew into a successful enterprise boasting a large inventory of rubber hose, sheet rubber and conveyor belting. He added service to this new product line by employing a team of fabricators who traveled directly to customer sites to install conveyor belting. Handling belt was a heavy job, and it required special equipment and know-how. But my father felt it could be a very important part of the service we offered. And he was right.

It was in 1982 that Richmond Supply Company moved from its original location on 7th street, near downtown Augusta, to its new home several miles down the road, closer to some of the industry it served. The Rubber Division, which by this time had become an important part of our business, would no longer be housed in a separate building and has today become an integral part of Richmond Supply.

We’ve been happy to serve you, our customers, for these seventy years. And we look forward to many more years of being your supplier. I’m proud to be the third generation in our family business, and I’m also happy to say that I have a son who’s learning the ropes. His name? Well, you can probably guess it: That’s right: He’s Levi V.

Thank you for your business over these many years. Send me an email.  I’d love to hear from you.

Levi W. Hill IV