Springfield, MO

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Springfield Mill & Lumber Co. Inc.

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President: M. Lloyd Wright

Year founded: 1868

Number of employees: 36

Principal business: Retail lumber and building materials center.

Lloyd Wright's father, Malcolm Wright, took over the lumber and building-supply business in 1958.

Lloyd Wright joined him in the business in 1979, after college, the U.S. Marine Corps., and stints managing area hardware stores.

The oldest business among this year's finalists, Springfield Mill & Lumber may have had its biggest test most recently. In 1994 the company's showroom and office was destroyed by fire. Battling back from those literal ashes is an important element to the company's story.

"Service is the key word taking care of your customer and doing it on a daily, hourly, weekly basis. You have to be aware of their needs, listen to the customer, and make yourself accessible to the customer.

"We've got mobile phones and pagers, and home telephone numbers on business cards," Wright said.

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