Peters Coal and Supply Company had its beginning as the Gorman Coal and Supply Company. The president and general manager, Mr. E. A. (Ed) Gorman executed a lease of the Bellevue property with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company on March 1, 1919. The first year’s lease was $180, just $15 per month.
Mr. Frank B. Peters, a wholesale cement salesman, had a dream of owning his own business. Frank heard from his uncle and part owner of the R.R. Coal Company that the Gorman Coal and Supply Company was for sale. Mr. Peters left the cement business to become a business owner. The Peters’ family acquired the business and incorporated in Kentucky on April 30, 1933. Soon after the acquisition, Mr. Peters learned that the coal business was not as lucrative as his sales position at the cement company so he returned to the cement business. Mrs. Barbara Neekamp Peters, Frank’s wife and company treasurer, ran the daily operations of the coal company. After graduating from Highlands High School in 1935, their son Alfred C. Peters came to work in the family business. The winter of 1937 brought a great flood to the region. Peters Coal and Supply Company became the only coal business in operation during the flood. To help keep up with the demand, Frank and Barbara hired Kathryn “Queenie” Thompson, a friend of Al’s and an employee of the H.S. Pogue Company, which was closed due to the flood. Queenie and Al were later married and worked together until their retirement in the spring of 1971. In the late sixties, two fires occurred at the company. A third fire occurred on December 26, 1970. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the fires had taken a toll on the Peters’ family business.
On April 1, 1971, at the age of fifty-six, Fred W. Grause purchased all of the shares of stock of the Peters Coal and Supply Company. Fred was already a seasoned business owner. He owned and operated the Fred Grause Tile Company in Bellevue since the mid nineteen fifties. Mr. Grause had a need for a ceramic tile warehouse and showroom and also a place to pick up the sand, cement and building supplies needed for the tile business. Most of these items were available at Peters Coal and Supply Company. In a few short months, Mr. Grause literally turned the business around. He constructed a six thousand square foot concrete building and moved the entrance from the east end of the 200 block of Grandview Avenue to the west end. What started as a one-year lease in 1919 had become a thirty-day lease in 1971. Fred needed to make one more purchase, the property from the C. & O. Railway Company. Unfortunately, railroads were not interested in selling property. In 1971, Fred’s youngest child, Kenneth Grause, was a student at Highlands High School when he began his career with Peters Coal and Supply Company as part-time yard help and driver. While attending Thomas More College at night, he began full-time work in the fall of 1974. In January of 1975, the company’s name was changed to d.b.a. Bellevue Home Improvement Center. This mouthful quickly was shortened to BHIC. Coal was dropped from inventory by the end of the nineteen seventies, and Ken and his wife, Denise Lawrence Grause, acquired all the shares of stock from his father and became sole stockholders.
The 1980’s were exciting years. On May 29, 1980, a purchase agreement was signed and delivered to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company. The C. & O. accepted the agreement on July 28, 1980. Immediately following the agreement, plans were started for all the necessary improvements to the property in Bellevue. In December of 1981, the six thousand square foot addition to the main store building was completed. This doubled the square footage of the retail store, which no longer housed the Grause Tile Company. In the fall of 1983, two adjacent parcels of land were acquired. During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the lumber yard was completely overhauled with a new main lumber shed, perimeter cantilever racked buildings and concrete pavement. In 1990, the main building was remodeled into a Do it center and the name was changed to Pilot Lumber Do it center.
On January 1, 1998, Peters Coal and Supply Company, Ken and Denise purchased the assets of Hess and Racke, Inc. in Alexandria, Kentucky from A. Kenneth Racke, the second-generation owner operator. During the first year, two new lumber buildings were erected. That business operated as d.b.a. Hess and Racke Do it center. This acquisition brought the company back to its roots, with its main focus again on the professional residential builders and remodelers.
The new millennium brought some of the lowest residential mortgage interest rates in four decades. This proved to be a great boon for the residential building industry. In 2004, Peters Coal and Supply Company opened a 4,000 square foot Design Center on the second floor of the Bellevue property. The showroom was designed with Pilot’s professional customers in mind. These professionals have access to the showroom seven days a week, 365 days a year. Featured products include kitchen cabinets and countertops, wood and vinyl windows, interior and exterior doors, fiber cement sidings, specialty moldings and trims, shingles and a full time Kitchen Designer to bring it all together.
Today, Pilot Lumber is not only focused on the building and home improvement needs of professional contractors and homeowners, but also on providing the Northern Kentucky-Greater Cincinnati region with premium composite deck and porch products that are nearly maintenance free for years of enjoyment.