For many years, regular customers could count on finding (above, from left) Donald, Clair, and Raymond Allis hard at work at the lumber mill and retail center. In recent years, C.C. Allis & Sons has been handed down to siblings (below, from left) Chris and Tim Allis, and their sister, Shannon Fitzgerald, who serve as president, vice-president, and secretary, respectively.
Story and photo above by Rick Hiduk
(originally published in Living Bradford County Magazine)
Few if any businesses in Bradford County have been in the same location for more than a century, let alone 200 years. C.C. Allis & Sons, Inc. has straddled the same road in Herrick Township, that was eventually named after the business, since 1822. Six generations later, siblings Chris and Tim Allis, along with their sister, Shannon Fitzgerald, continue to meet the building materials and hardware needs of the local community
They are proud of a heritage that began when Elizer Allis started a sawmill to build beehives, among other things. What remains of the original foundation of the paddle wheel sawmill can still be seen up South Creek from the homestead. The business was handed down through his son, Edwin, to his grandsons, Grant and Frank. After a sawmill fire in 1933, Claire Cecil Allis, from which the initials C.C. were derived, rebuilt and reinvigorated the business by constructing the first retail center where the offices are currently located. The business was incorporated in 1971.
C.C.’s sons Raymond and Donald, father of Chris, Tim and Shannon, eventually joined him, as did Raymond’s wife, Betty. That lineup is what many local residents still remember of the Allis’ business, while the siblings were learning the trade and working their way up through the ranks.
In addition to the lumber business, some side of the family was always farming. Donald had beef cows and pigs, and C.C. and Raymond raised chickens. For most of their lives, they all lived within a quarter mile of the business and even switched houses once.
But things changed rapidly over the past eight years, with Raymond and Betty passing away within a few months of each other in 2015 and Donald passing away in 2022. Donald’s wife, Neva, did inventory maintenance until she retired in 2018. She passed away in 2021. With them went the oral history of the family.
“We’re at a point where we have lost that information,” said Chris. They rely on a few pieces written in local newspapers, photos, and memories shared with them by longtime customers.
Nonetheless, the siblings have fond memories of how each got started with the business, as well as the experience they gained not only from older family members but also employees who made careers of working at C.C. Allis.
Some of the people to have worked for the Allises the longest include Harry Williams, Mike Wallakis, Sr.; Ron Saylor; Ron Carmichael; Jeff Jackson; Bert Benjamin; and Bob Newman. “I wish I could go back 15 or 20 years and work with them again,” Tim lamented. All told, the Allis family has employed scores of people over the years, including members of the Plain community.
“We used to have Amish people help us build trusses,” Shannon related. “We had a barn out back where they parked their horses and buggies.”
As children, Shannon and her brothers were not permitted to be around the mills or store. “We were not allowed to hang out as kids,” She recalled. “That was the policy. It was a business.” The exception was when the business was closed on the weekends. Shannon remembers playing in the saw dust bin under the store and getting sodas out of the old Coke machine. As the children grew older, they were given age-appropriate tasks that would prepare them for their futures with C.C. Allis and Sons.
Tim and Chris both started working at 14, Tim in the planer and rafter sheds, and Chris helping to load trucks. Shannon has worked for the company since 1997, starting at the sales counter until her father, Donald, moved her into kitchen sales and eventually Betty’s role as secretary treasurer. “I got two days with her, and that was it,” Shannon said of Betty’s sudden passing.
Chris studied business at Elmira College for two years and came back to work full time in1993. After a number of years behind the sales counter, he started working more with his Uncle Raymond, learning how to purchase lumber for the business. He eventually moved on to do delivery and dispatching and now serves as president of the company and oversees most of the daily operations.
Tim enjoys being outside and, after decades of building trusses and other products, he is now vice president and oversees the daily operations of the sawmill. Shannon still enjoys working with customers and getting them what they need for building projects, but her favorite job is designing kitchens.
As building trends come and go, they remain confident that the diversification of their product lines will help them weather future changes.
“It’s like any other business. There are fads,” said Tim, the oldest of the bunch. “We don’t do as many barns, pole barns, and silos as we did when there were more farms here.”
“We’re selling more metal roofing than shingles,” Shannon noted.
“And we’re starting to bring more paneling back in,” said Chris.
Most of the lumber milled at C.C. Allis is locally sourced hemlock and pine. Much of the other lumber they sell is already milled and is sold for new home construction, garages and decks. On average, the company’s customer base is within a 50 mile radius, but they have shipped their products as far away as Long Island and Virginia.
Other products include paint, tools, lawn and garden supplies, interior and exterior doors, windows, insulation, flooring, electrical accessories, and siding. Services have evolved to include delivery, key cutting, screen repair, and free estimates.
The walls of the store, showrooms, and offices are adorned with photos that depict the C.C. Allis and Sons story, including many local sports teams. Raymond played softball and was a big sports fan. C.C., Raymond, and Donald were part of a company-sponsored bowling team that ended up in a regional Bowling Hall of Fame. The company continues to sponsor ball teams.
“I’d like to see it continue to grow,” Shannon said of the future of the business.
“We’ve never really had a five- or ten-year plan, but I think it’s time to,” Chris remarked. “We don’t have anyone coming up behind us.”
C.C. Allis & Sons is located at 1662 C.C. Allis Road, north of Herrickville. To learn more about the business, interested readers can log on to ccallis.com or follow them on Facebook.
(editor’s note: This story was written earlier this year, prior to a fire destroying C.C. Allis & Sons’ sawmill. The family business remains open, outsourcing rough-cut lumber to continue serving their customers while developing plans to rebuilt the sawmill)
C.C. Allis & Sons has long been a supporter of sports teams and have even participated on some of them. A regional Bowling Hall of Fame team included members (from left) Donald Allis, Robert Weignarter, Raymond Allis, Clair Allis, and Burt Benjamin.
Raymond (foreground) and Betty Allis work together behind the sales counter.