From our early start on the Mississippi River to our current locations across the Twin Cities Area, the hallmark of the Scherer Bros. history is our dedication to quality and service. Even during the struggle of the Great Depression, through World War II, and despite massive changes in the industry, the Scherer family never lost their innovative spirit—a spirit that keeps Scherer Bros. continually growing year after year.
At the turn of the 20th century, vast pine forests stretched across central and northern Minnesota. These forests provided the framing for Midwestern cities like Chicago and Minneapolis. Logs were cut and deposited into the Mississippi River to be swept into great sorting and holding booms that fed the lumber mills along the river. Often, logs became jammed and driven deep into the soft sediment of the river bottom. This accumulation of logs continued for years until much of the great forests were cut and the mills closed.
Late in the 1920s, so-called “deadheaders” began probing the river bottom for the sunken logs. Deadheading logs was a dangerous job. Old river-wise lumberjacks cruised along the river currents probing the bottom with long iron poles. When they found a log, they would push a hook and chain underneath and haul it up with a winch into their scow (boat).
In 1929, an enterprising young farmer named Munn Scherer found himself working for one of these deadheading men, just to make ends meet. It was difficult work and didn’t pay well, but Munn soon realized he was working in a potentially viable business. At the height of the Great Depression, he and his brother Clarence took a chance and decided to buy half-interest in a lumber mill. One month later, they bought out their partner by giving him half of their deadhead lumber as payment in full. Scherer Bros. Lumber Co. was born.
During those early years of operation, Munn and Clarence each owned farms east of Hamel, Minnesota. They rose at four o’clock every day to face a heavy workload: they would do the chores, have breakfast, pack a lunch, and travel the dirt road into the city for work. Sales were slow and payments for jobs done were sometimes nonexistent. On any given day, the company could have been called bankrupt, but the two brothers kept forging ahead. Eventually, they filled a large order for the First National Bank Building in St. Paul which kept them in business.
From the 1930s to 1940s, deadhead logging on the stretch of the Mississippi River, between Minneapolis and Lake Mille Lacs, produced some 22 million board feet of lumber. Of this, Scherer Bros. probably sawed about 15 million board feet. But as wages climbed and the river harvest dwindled, eventually all the mills on the river found themselves out of business, except Scherer Bros. Clarence and Munn realized it was time to bid farewell to logging on the Mississippi River. They relocated their first sawing rig, which they had sold some years before, and reinstalled it where it belonged—in their yard.
The start of World War II brought growth and change to both the logging industry and to Scherer Bros. The draft had a big impact on labor, and loyal employees picked up the slack wherever they could. Frank Adams, who would become a long-time employee of Scherer Bros., sold lumber by day and worked in the mill at night. Munn enlisted in the Army, leaving Clarence to work around the clock at the mill. Clarence bought lumber and took care of the office during the day, then filed saws when the day was done. It was an intense time where everyone did what they could just to make do. Thinking outside the box made a difference in whether or not a company was going to survive. For Clarence, this meant investing in odd-sized lumber, often referred to as “rip and trim” stock, which was not subject to rationing during the war. He purchased 50 carloads, and the mill sang around the clock, converting the rip and trim into useful products for the war effort.
Munn rejoined the business after the war. During that time, most lumber dealers believed that the future was with large contractors and developers, but Clarence and Munn sided with the smaller builder. They shaped their business policies to satisfy the skilled tradesman: they offered better quality, more personal service, and at times, financial assistance to builders who needed it most. Their hard work and dedication to others paid off with loyalty that has continued through three generations of customer relations.
Over time, Munn and Clarence Scherer became known for their ingenuity, mechanical ability, and management skills. They found that they could make better window and door units than the competition and sell them for less money. They added steel entrance systems and patio doors to the product lines. They offered high-quality millwork, doors, and windows. Ahead of their time, they sold triple-glazed windows, long before the energy crunch made their practicality obvious to others.
Since then, two more generations of Scherer brothers have run the family business. Roger, Gary, Mike, and Greg brought fresh energy in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Their vision, creativity, and courage guided the company through material shortages, flood, and fire, while growing the company from one yard to five yards.
Today, Pete, Kris, and Mark continue this heritage of success. Scherer Bros. now offers such a wide variety of building products and services—windows, doors, trusses, closets, custom millwork, and so much more—that we are no longer just a “lumber company.” The more diverse Scherer Bros. becomes, the more we can do for our customers. We are excited to continue our legacy of providing creative solutions to the building community for generations to come.
In 2020, Scherer Bros. will celebrate 90 years of service to the Twin Cities Area building community. We are grateful for the uncommon dedication of our employees and the unusually loyal patronage of our building and remodeling customers.
At Scherer Bros., our history is rich, but it’s our commitment to our customers that has carried us forward. Come experience a true partnership that will last for years to come. To learn more, give us a call at
612-379-9633 or stop by one of our showrooms. We’re looking forward to hearing about your next project.