Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a two-part series regarding the Setzer family’s history in the lumber industry.
In their second recent meeting with The Land Park News regarding the history of the longtime Broadway district business, Setzer Forest Products, Jeff and Cal
Setzer expressed their love for being a part of the district for many decades and their pride of maintaining a company that has been a family tradition to operate.
In discussing his deep connection to the Broadway district, Jeff, who is Cal’s son and co-president of the company along with his cousin, Scott Setzer, said that he has been associated with the district and the Land Park area for his entire life.
“My parent’s home where I grew up was at 3611 17th Street (where former Sacramento Bee editor C.K. McClatchy later resided), so (the area) was always important to me, and I came back and raised my (three) kids on Sutterville (Road),” Jeff said. “The plant has always been on Broadway, so Broadway has always been a part of my life in some way or another. When the Greater Broadway Partnership got together, I felt it was important that the owners of the properties of businesses on Broadway were the ones who were making the decisions, because they were putting in the investment and the risk into the street. So, that’s why I got involved with the partnership.”
Cal discussed the pride that his family feels through continuing to operate Setzer Forest Products.
“We are proud of the fact that it’s still a family business,” Cal said. “We would like to see it continue as a family business, but it’s hard to do through the generations. Jeff has done a fabulous job taking on the roles that my brother (Hardie) and I were doing before, and his cousins (Scott and Mark Setzer, who are part of the company’s ownership and management) are also doing a good job. So, there is considerable pride in the family of the generations going on and on (with Setzer Forest Products).”
Setzer Box Co.
As mentioned in the first part of this two-part series, the history of Setzer Forest Products, which is located at 2570 3rd Street, just south of Broadway, began in 1927.
Founded as the Setzer Box Co., the business began as a plant, which manufactured soft pine shooks, trays, picking boxes and nailed boxes. (“Box shook” is the term for the sawn material used to make boxes).
Although Jeff points out that many people today are unfamiliar with the term “box factory,” the Setzer Box Co. was once well known for producing wooden boxes for a large number of products, including many goods that were regularly used by residents of the city.
“So many different items went into wooden boxes: from soap, cheese, dynamite to fruit and oil,” Jeff said.
A look around the company’s office reveals displays of brass printing dyes that were once used to place the names of businesses on box ends.
Among the most notable dyes on display are those bearing product names such as Del Monte, Van Camp’s, Hunt’s, Palmolive and Blue Goose.
The Setzer Box Co. also produced boxes for the Campbell’s Soup Co., the Bercut-Richards cannery and Kraft cheese.
The company has also shipped box shook throughout the United States and other countries, including Israel, the Philippines and South Africa, and for a few years maintained a molding office in South Korea.
When the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 occurred, the company’s founder, Curt Setzer, found himself
challenged because he could only sell his box shooks for the same price that he could purchase his lumber.
In response to this problem, Curt approached George Zoller, vice president of Capital National Bank, with the proposition to build a box factory and sawmill in Greenville, Calif. and also a sawmill in Sacramento.
In recalling this moment in his memoirs, Curt wrote, “It was suggested that I put a sawmill in Sacramento. When I told George Zoller this, he agreed to give me any amount of money I needed. He said, ‘Just write your check; I’ll take care of it.’”
After Curt received a loan through Zoller, the Greenville and Sacramento projects began and were completed in 1934.
Two of the company’s most successful endeavors were its manufacturing of Pres-to-Logs from about 1934 to about 1992 and its production of shade slats from the 1930s to the 1970s.
Cal explained that the company changed hands during the post-World War II era.
“My brother and I were both military trained, but we were both in our 20s, and (their father, Curt) walked out and he said, ‘You run (the company).’ The fact that we were both in the military, we said, ‘We’ll run (the company) like the military. Everybody will have a line of command.’ We succeeded all right and got along pretty well for many, many years together.”
In 1948, Cal and Hardie and Cal’s sister, Yvonne (Setzer) Rolfe, established Glenco Forest Products, and four years later, through the operations of Glenco, they were successful enough to be able to purchase the Setzer Box Co. from Curt and his wife, Hazel.
During this era, Glenco built its Elk Creek, Calif. sawmill, which was owned by the Setzer company until 1968.
The 1960s was a productive era for the Setzer Box Co., as is indicative through the fact that the business was the number one user of railroad cars in Sacramento during the early part of the decade. About 1,000 cars per year were running to and from the 3rd Street site.
In 1968, the Setzers sold their Elk Creek mill and their sawmill in Sacramento was closed due to the construction of Interstate 5. The Greenville plant closed a decade earlier.
Setzer Forest Products
It was also during the same year that the company’s planing mill and box company off 65th Street closed down after about 30 years of operations, and Setzer
Forest Products became the business’s official name.
The company began producing finger joint moldings in the early 1970s and in 1978 entered the first of their two decades of making cut stock for window and door manufacturers.
Since 1991, the Setzers have owned a finger joint molding and cut stock plant in Oroville, and have manufactured medium density fiberboard moldings (MDF) at their Sacramento site since 1998.
The Setzers also maintain their own nonprofit foundation, the Setzer Foundation, which has financially assisted community organizations and projects since 1952.
Contributing to the longtime success of Setzer Forest Products, many employees have worked for the company for many years. One such worker was recognized by the business with a gift Corvette in honor of his more than 50 years in management.
Jeff explained that the Setzer family’s longtime Sacramento business has prospered despite changing times.
“The thing about this company that I think is important is that we have adapted and changed with the marketplaces,” Jeff said. “Even though we’ve been in the same location, we’ve done many different things here. Because we’re a privately-held, family company, we’ve been able to move quickly and adapt to survive all kinds of different challenges, including the box business going from wood to paper and the molding business to MDF. We’ve just been a company that can adapt fairly quickly and stay in touch with the marketplace.”