GR Mitchell traces its roots back to 1904.
In 1904, Ira B. Graybill, a bookkeeper for Herr & Snavely, in Lancaster, purchased a grain and feed business located in Refton. Harry Eby operated it until 1907, when Mr. Graybill took over. In later years, Ira’s son Bob became a partner in the business.
In 1946, George R. Mitchell accepted a position from his friend Bob Graybill as sales clerk and bookkeeper. By this time, the business primarily dealt with feed, fertilizer, coal, and building materials. It had three trucks and five employees, including the two owners.
Around 1950, George became an active manager, and by the 60’s, he was running the entire operation.
On June 1, 1969, George purchased the Refton business, and renamed it G.R. Mitchell, Inc. At that time, it was doing approximately $500,000 in gross annual sales.
In June 1972, Hurricane Agnes destroyed some of the bridges that supported the rail line from Quarryville to the Refton store. Railroad service was discontinued, which ended GR Mitchell’s sale of coal.
In 1973, George’s son Steve joined the family business full-time, first as loading and driving trucks and later in sales and office support.
In 1977, GR Mitchell became an American Hardware store. (American Hardware became ServiStar, and eventually True Value.)
The business continued to grow, and the Refton store/office expanded in 1981 by redesigning the entire Refton yard. GR Mitchell’s retail store and inventory of building supplies were greatly increased.
In 1985, George Mitchell sold the business to his son Steve, and retired. That same year, Betty Marley joined GR Mitchell for office and bookkeeping support.
In 1989, Steve attempted to purchase a custom architectural millwork business but the purchase fell through at the last moment. Undaunted, Steve hired a millwork manager and within 30 days had purchased the equipment and hired employees to create GR Mitchell’s own architectural millwork department at the Refton location.
Also that year, Steve purchased a 13-acre tract at 14 Beaver Valley Pike, Willow Street, with visions of moving the Refton location in the future.
In 1990, further growth at the Refton location strained capacity and expansion there wasn’t viable. So, the decision was made to begin plans for developing the Willow Street property. GR Mitchell also purchased a second store/lumberyard in neighboring York County.
In 1995, zoning approval was finally accomplished to develop the 13 acres in Willow Street, and construction began on the 10,000 square-foot hardware store, a 25,000 square-foot building supplies warehouse, and an expansive lumberyard.
In May 1996, the Willow Street facility opened for business. The Refton location remained for the custom millwork operation, and the York County facility was closed. The new Willow Street operation was able to service GR Mitchell’s expanded territory that had spread from York County to parts of Southeast Pennsylvania.
In 2005, GR Mitchell opened a Yorktowne Kitchen Cabinetry Showroom in York. It featured 20 kitchen displays, including a fully operating kitchen. This provided an excellent way to invite contractors and clients into the showroom for feature demonstrations. (Over the years, other cabinetry lines were added.)
In 2011, George R. Mitchell passed away. That same year, Tom Keller joined GR Mitchell in a sales role. (He was later named Sales Manager.)
In 2015, Steve began selling shares of GR Mitchell to Tom Keller and Betty Marley. Tom had been a driving force in expanding building supplies sales with builders and GCs. Betty’s key financial expertise had been invaluable in supporting GR Mitchell’s growth.
In 2016, GR Mitchell started Prime Builder Services for installing framing and trim for larger commercial jobs, giving General Contractors a one-source supply & install solution.
In 2017, owners Steve Mitchell, Tom Keller, and Betty Marley charted a course for the 45-person team to ensure GR Mitchell’s refined operating excellence, customer service focus, and continued growth trajectory.
In 2019, Steve Mitchell officially retired, as GR Mitchell marks its 50th anniversary, but don’t expect Steve to completely disappear from the family business. With years of lumber and building materials experience under his belt he’ll act as a consultant to GR Mitchell, making frequent visits to advise on market conditions offer insights on growth of the business.