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Hugh and Wanda Dotson, co-owners of Dotson-Roberts Lumber Co., share some memories of their 50 years of business in Tahlequah during one of the lumber company’s last days of business.

For 50 years, Hugh and Wanda Dotson have gotten out of bed nearly every morning and made the trip to Dotson-Roberts Lumber Co. But that's about to change.

The Dotsons will close their family-owned business for the last time today -- Friday, Oct. 26. Hugh Dotson said the buildings and contents are being sold to the Cherokee Nation.

Anyone who spends even a few minutes with the Dotsons can easily discern the love they have for their business, its customers and employees. Being asked to recall some of their 50 years of memories brings smiles to their faces.

"We couldn't find a better deal," Hugh said. "It's going to be quite a transition for us."

He confirmed they were offered a "decent" price for the business.

Dotson has never been a stranger to hard work, starting with his childhood, when he was raised on a farm in Arkansas during the Depression.

"I guess you could say I've got a little dirt in my blood," he said.

About 50 years ago, the Dotsons and Wanda's father and stepmother -- the "Roberts" part of the company -- bought the lumber yard in the 100 block of South Water from Homer Gill.

The Dotsons had come to Tahlequah from Idaho, and Hugh worked in a lumber yard there after leaving the military service in 1946.

"That's where I got my start in the lumber business," he said.

It was smaller than the current operation, but additional properties were purchased, and the lumber yard was expanded.

"There was a residence here," Hugh said, standing in the sales part of the business. "It was Earl Dyer's. We bought it and moved the house over on Mission [Street]."

Hugh's father-in-law worked with him in the early years of their partnership. But he started losing interest as he got older.

The Dotsons' three children -- Larry, Gary and Vickie Booth -- all spent time working at the lumber company. The grandchildren did as well, and Wanda says the in-laws have also worked there. The business has four employees now who aren't family members.

The Dotsons have seen a lot of change in Tahlequah through the front glass of the lumber company building. The U.S. Post Office was across the street when they opened, and that office now houses the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce. The tribal courthouse was the Cherokee County Courthouse for several of those 50 years.

Wanda recalls that Water Avenue used to be a truck route, and a Safeway store was just a block or so south of the lumber company. In those days, trips to town weren't as frequent as they are now.

"When people would come to town to shop [combined with other activity], you'd have trouble getting through this little street," she said.

The Dotsons say they've been fortunate to have a solid customer base throughout their time on South Water Avenue. Hugh says businesses like Tahlequah Lumber Co. and Lowe's haven't hurt their operation.

"We can't tell that much of a change," Hugh said. "We've been very fortunate that we've had some contractors and a steady flow of drop in customers."

They believe the service those customers have received has kept them coming back.

"We realize we're where we're at because of our customers," Wanda said. "And we've always had some wonderful employees."

The corner of Water and Delaware will look a little different next week without Hugh and Wanda Dotson there, but they'll always remember their loyal customers and employees.

"This county and town have been good to us," Hugh said.

Hugh said the staff has spent the past few days finishing jobs, but they haven't been taking on any new projects. He's quick to say the end of the lumber business doesn't mean he's headed for his recliner or favorite fishing hole.

"I'm not retiring," he said. "I've got some cattle west of town that we've raised for years and years."

Many folks are already opining that Tahlequah won't be the same without its downtown lumber yard, but the Dotsons believe things will continue just fine.

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