About the Business
Carl’s Building Supply was established on Marrowstone Island in 1947 by Carl Johnson after he returned home from 4 years of war in the Pacific, serving aboard a Navy LST landing craft where he participated in the first landings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. But the Johnson family’s roots in Jefferson County go back much further than that.
Carl’s father Harry was born in Port Ludlow in 1889 and shortly thereafter the family moved to Nordland on Marrowstone Island, where Harry’s father Karl went into business digging clams and rowing them across the bay to Port Townsend. Harry established the Nordland Trading Co. in 1923 and built a store on the banks of Mystery Bay directly in front of his house. The Trading Co. was so named because of the barter system established by Harry Johnson during its early years. The local farmers and the few Native Americans who still lived on Indian Spit exchanged their eggs and milk for feed and grain at Harry’s store.
Since there were no dependable trucking companies which would deliver freight to the island, Harry began making weekly trips to Seattle by boat, carrying shipments of berries, poultry, and other cargo from Nordland and returning with a full load of supplies for his store and feed for the local poultrymen. A warehouse was built next to the store in 1925 to hold the sacks of feed and crates of goods he bought from Seattle wholesalers.
(L to R) Terry Johnson, Phil Arnold and Lawrence Johnson: All have made their livelihood in the building trades, as have their fathers, as well as their grandfathers before them.
When Carl Johnson, Harry’s son, was discharged from the Navy in 1946, he returned to Nordland and his father turned the clam and trucking business over to him. Just as Harry had hired the island bachelors and teenagers as clam diggers, Carl continued the tradition. He built a shed in 1950 from which the clams are still washed, sacked and dispatched by truck. Today the business, now known as Marrowstone Island Shellfish Co., is run by Carl’s son Jake.
Local contractors sometimes asked Carl to haul in lumber and other building materials on his return trips from Seattle.
Eventually, in 1947, he began to stockpile some of these supplies, storing them on the empty lot at the corner of Flagler and Schwartz Roads. After the bridge was built over the Portage Canal, the materials were moved to the present location of Carl’s Building Supply at Ness’s Corner on Rhody Drive in Port Hadlock-Chimacum, on the site of a blacksmith shop, where our store building was built in 1962. Since then, many improvements have been made to the property which now covers 8 acres and includes more than 50,000 square feet of covered storage to keep our top quality materials in prime condition.
Carl turned over the reins of his lumberyard to his son Lawrence Johnson in 1992, who continues the focus on serving the area’s contractors and owner/builders. The efficient crew at Carl’s are experts at fulfilling contractors’ needs. A quick office survey revealed a number of them were third generation building tradesmen. Some had wielded a hammer for many years.
Lawrence still uses the slogan his father coined in 1957, “Buy Where the Builders Buy.”