LaValley employees take pride in the company’s longevity. Right to left, dark green shirts: Tara Gregory, Mary Jeffrey, Shawna Robbins, Scott Depot. Light green: Jeremy Lewis, Andy Erisman, Jim Dube and Jim Wiggins.

CLAREMONT —LaValley’s Claremont Building Supply has been around, in one form or another, since 1902. It’s been LaValley’s since 1975, and before that it was Claremont Building Supply. Before that it was Boardway and Cowles, and before that it was a hardward shop started by Robert Rossiter on Forest Street. It’s believed to be the oldest continuously operating business in Claremont.

This Friday and Saturday the building supply store welcomes the Claremont community to join in a birthday celebration, with a discount of 15% off everything in the store, door prizes every hour, and free lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“This Claremont business has survived for over 100 years through some very bad times,” according to a company press release. “Depressions, recessions, two world wars, hyperinflation of the 1970s, 21% bank interest in the 1980s... Today, big box stores present another kind of challenge for all locally-owned and operated businesses. While locally-owned companies certainly cannot match box stores with advertising dollars, we certainly can with price, delivery and service.”

The store offers the community something else box stores lack: stable jobs in a company that cares about them.

Mary Jeffrey has been with the company 37 years, and she’s far from being the longest-time employee.

“I stay here because I love it,” said Jeffrey. “I stay here because I can and I stay here because I want to.”

Jeffrey was working as a cashier at P&C 37 years ago, when Craig Messer (now with the company 45 years) asked if she was looking for a job. “I have a job,” Jeffrey recalled saying. “Register girl.”

Messer had a better idea, however, and he said, “Come see me in the morning.”

Show room manager Tara Gregory said she was recruited by Mary Jeffrey 19 years ago. “When they find a good person, they recommend them,” said Gregory.

Bob Jackman runs “LaValley University” for the two stores, training employees to add to their skills so they can move up in the company. It’s not unusual for them to hire someone out of high school and teach them what they need to know.

Currently, founders Harold and Gerry LaValley remain active in the business. The Claremont store is run by company president Larry Huot, and backed up by a third generation, Bryan Huot and John Hooper.

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