History of Mr. & Mrs. Tibbetts & Cox Lumber Co.
Linton N. Tibbetts, OBE (affectionately known as ‘Mr. T.’) was born in Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands in 1923 as the son of a shipbuilder and merchant. Working in his father’s humble grocery store and soda bottling plant, Linton gained experience in retailing and shipping and exporting up to 400 soft drinks per day.
When Linton turned 17, he followed in the footsteps of most ‘Brackers’ by going to sea, joining the U.S. Merchant Marines working on troop ships, the Panama Canal and many other exotic ports. Tampa/St. Petersburg was his favorite port and where he landed permanently with just $17 in his pocket. Linton began working in the construction industry building small houses (most of which can still be found in St. Petersburg today) and found his love and passion while working in a small lumber yard owned by Mr. T.T. Cox, known as Cox Lumber & Supply Co. In competition with 16 other Pinellas County building material companies and being the smallest at only $50,000 per year in sales, Mr. Cox was frustrated with his struggling business. He agreed to sell the company in 1949 to Linton and his newfound partner, Mr. A.K. Harper and one other employee.
Linton, over the next decade, leaned on his Bracker work ethic and worked hard to improve the state of the company. He continued to pour all the profits back into the company. During that time, Linton met his wife Polly, on a church retreat and eventually married and had 4 children (Mary, David, Donna, and Dan). In the early years of the company Polly helped Linton in virtually every role of the business – from accounting to payroll and even worked after hours to help him paint houses they built in St. Petersburg. Then in 1962, Linton offered to buy out his partners and took sole ownership of the company. During the next three decades he continued to grow the company and expand along the West Coast of Florida.
As this steady expansion continued, Linton began adding to his management team. He added two key members that would change the company forever, Bob Fehr and Juan Quesada. Bob and Juan were the perfect combination of what Linton needed to grow the business in a service-focused yet profitable way and continued the buildout of the management team for future growth. In 1989, Linton had the inherent desire and responsibility to bring Cox Lumber to Grand Cayman and opened his first location on Eastern Avenue in George Town. In 1991, Cox bought Orlando-based Panning Lumber. Sales rose from $60 million to $80 million per year and in 1996 Cox purchased Sarasota-based Stottlemyer & Shoemaker to propel its sales to over $150 million annually.
In 2005, Linton was approached and agreed to sell the company after its best year of sales of $396 million. In May 2006, Williams Brothers Lumber Co. Inc. (a subsidiary of The Home Depot) acquired Cox’s U.S. operations and Linton tearfully bid farewell to his company which was comprised of 11 truss plants, 15 door plants and over 1,400 loyal employees. Linton appreciated each one of his employees and was often seen ‘walking’ the yard and conversing with every employee. He would hand out $20 bills if he saw a forklift driver wearing their seatbelt or a driver with an especially clean cab in their delivery truck. Linton was also known for his ‘dumpster diving’, as it was commonly referred to. His grandson and current Executive Chairman of Tibbetts Lumber Co. (U.S) and Cox Lumber Ltd. (Cayman), Kyle Hooker, remembers losing track of his Grandfather in the Ocoee (Orlando) yard one day as Linton was conducting his walk-around and was eventually found on the top rung of the dumpster ladder tossing still-usable material out for reuse.
Sadly, Linton passed away on October 6, 2011 and his sweet wife Polly died a few years later on January 4, 2016. Linton and Polly are now succeeded by their two living children (Mary and husband Russ Brandes, former Chairman, and Donna), 9 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren.
History of Cox Lumber Ltd.
After selling to Williams Bros. in 2006, Linton and his family continued to operate Cox Lumber Ltd. in Grand Cayman and it continues to prosper. The two facilities it operated at the time were the retail store on Eastern Ave. and the Contractor Yard and truss plant on Sparky’s Drive in the industrial park. In 2015, the Tibbetts Family built a brand new flagship facility in Bodden Town to serve as a contractor retail store, door shop, warehouse, and lumber yard.
In December 2014, Juan Quesada officially retired from the companies after 35 years of service and Russ Hallenbeck, a 32-year veteran with the company, took the reins as CEO. In February 2015, Kyle, a 17-year veteran with the company, was named Executive Chairman when Russ Brandes decided to retire after 38 years of service to the companies. Joe Shetler, a 28-year veteran of the company, serves Cox as the Sr. Vice President, residing in Grand Cayman and leading Cox’s service-oriented team comprised primarily of Caymanians.
Today, the Tibbetts Family is committed to serving Grand Cayman as the Island’s premier contractor supplier of building materials while delivering the highest level of customer service and continues to strengthen its bonds of friendship and community.
The Contractor Yard currently serves as a drive-thru lumberyard and has a full line of electrical, plumbing, hardware, bent, cut, and tagged rebar, hoops, stirrups, and roof and floor truss manufacturing. Customers love this location because of its quick and easy access and large selection.
At the Bodden Town facility customers will find a large selection of appliances, doors, millwork, windows, plumbing, hardware, paint, and other building materials. Both locations continue to grow as contractors rely on Cox Lumber for excellent service and selection.
Cox also has the ability to handle Export Sales out of St. Petersburg, FL through its sister company, Tibbetts International LLC. The Export Division has decades of international sales and export experience to the Cayman Islands and the Caribbean and can handle any size project.
Cox Lumber continues to grow and set its vision to be recognized by our customers, employees, and vendors as the preferred independent truss and building materials supply partner in the Cayman Islands.
Cox Lumber’s mission is uniquely simple, powerful, and intentional – To glorify God and honor the legacy of Linton and Polly Tibbetts while growing knowledgeable, dedicated employees while serving our customers with excellence and integrity.
The Tibbetts Family strives to continue to grow Cox Lumber as a multi-generational family business spanning four generations and the vision to make it to the fifth. Linton and Polly’s photo is featured prominently in both Cox Lumber Ltd. locations to ensure every employee remembers this special founding couple and adheres to Linton’s core principles, which are fondly displayed around each facility:
- Set goals every year and encourage every employee to meet them
- The worst thing you can do is promise what you cannot deliver
- Credit is the root of all evil in any business, be tough about giving it and always pay your bills on time
- Plan instead of worry
- You don’t need a fancy office or a brand-new truck or equipment to get started
- Hard work, attention to good business principles and personal sacrifice plus determination and good follow-through are all essential
- My practice is to employ the best people that I can, make them feel a part of the company and we will be successful
- Every customer that walks through the door is a prince because he or she is the one that put you where you are, too many people forget that when they get to the top
- Life is somewhat like an electric car in a carnival, you get bumped on this side and you get bumped on that side but you don’t stop, you keep going, determined to keep moving until your time is up.
The Tibbetts Family currently operates 6 locations throughout Florida and 2 locations in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.
Back in 1949, Linton N. Tibbetts, OBE purchased half interest in the 6-year old Cox Supply Company in the United States (later becoming Cox Lumber Co.) from Mr. T.T. Cox. Twelve years later Mr. Tibbetts purchased the remaining half of the company and set his sights on becoming the largest independently-owned lumber and building materials supplier in the state of Florida and the largest roof and floor truss company in the Southeast United States.
SOLD COX LUMBER CO. TO HOME DEPOT
In 2006, the Tibbetts Family sold Cox Lumber Co. to The Home Depot after posting record sales of $396 million in 2005; with 28 locations including 11 truss plants and 15 door plants in Florida and the Cayman Islands. With their unrelenting passion to serve their surrounding communities, the Tibbetts Family continued to own and operate Cox Lumber Ltd. in Grand Cayman as well as Tibbetts International, the family’s Caribbean export and freight-forwarding business, located in St. Petersburg.
Then in 2009 the Tibbetts Family and Mr. Tibbetts decided to re-enter the lumber business in Florida by establishing Tibbetts Lumber Co. with one small location in St. Petersburg and big dreams. Today the company has 5 locations in Florida (St. Petersburg, Land O’Lakes, Ocala, Ft. Myers, & Palm Bay), 3 Cox Lumber Ltd. locations in Grand Cayman, & Tibbetts International in St. Petersburg.
2015 marked a new era for Cox Lumber, with their newest flagship store opening in Bodden Town to support the future growth in a facility large enough to handle the construction needs across Grand Cayman for years to come. An additional facility in the industrial area of George Town, off Sparky’s Drive, handled the building of trusses and manufacturing of rebar.
Although the business has changed and grown over the years, the company remains committed to offering high-quality home improvement products at the best prices, while delivering a high level of customer service and continuing to strengthen the bonds of friendship and community.