- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) - The story of the Greenville Lumber Company began with the aspirations of one man: Pete Sarullo.

Sarullo was born Aug. 10, 1901, in Cefalu, Sicily, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Salvatore Sarullo.

According to retired banker and longtime resident of Greenville, John Black’s book, “Faith of Our Fathers,” Sarullo made his first trip to the United States in 1919 at the age of 15, when he came to live with his brother, Sam.

Immediately, Sarullo’s entrepreneurship skills surfaced. He worked at Frank’s Café on Poplar Street and in no time at all opened his own café. Unfortunately, after four years, he was forced to sale the café and travel back to Sicily with his brother to aid their ailing father.

While in Sicily, Sarullo was conscripted into the Italian army. There he served as an X-ray technician in the Via Caeli Hospital in Rome, Black said.

After completing his term of service, he married Frances Terracina in March 1927. Shortly after, he returned to the United States with plans to return to Greenville. However, due to devastation from the 1927 flood, he was unable to return to Greenville and took up residence in Brooklyn, N.Y. After a short two years, his wife was able to join him, Black said in his book.

In 1932, Sarullo finally fulfilled his dream of returning to Greenville. After his arrival, they opened a small grocery store on Walthall Street. In 1939, Sarullo built a new store and service station at the corner of Theobald and Clay Streets, now the old Baird Company Warehouse building.

At the end of World War II, the economy began to grow again. By the end of 1948, the demand for housing began to grow, Black said, as more and more servicemen returned home. Sarullo saw an opportunity.

Sarullo started slow, building one house across the street from his store. No sooner than he had finished, someone approached him about buying the house. The profit was good, and he figured this was a venture he should try. His first project was to build three houses on Margaret Boulevard, Black said.

In 1952, Sarullo’s eldest daughter, Sara, married Dave Sherman. Sherman worked with his father in the family grocery store. In time, Sarullo convinced his son-in-law to go into the lumber and home building business together.

“In high school, I worked at a small lumber company, and I figured I would like it,” Sherman said. “I saw the opportunity and I started.” The lumber company Sherman worked for prior to Greenville Lumber was Virden Lumber Company.

This union of Sarullo and Sherman, in late 1952, gave birth to the Greenville Lumber Company.

Black said things were so tight at first that the two men operated from two desks placed back to back with only one telephone between them.

Over the next 25 years, Greenville Lumber Company built many of the subdivisions in Greenville. Black said they built at least two-thirds of the houses in the city.

In an effort to branch out, Greenville Lumber Company began to bid on commercial construction contracts, Black said in his book. Among the many built were the William Alexander Percy Memorial Library, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Parish Hall, Greenville Garden Apartments, North Theobald Apartments and many other buildings around Mississippi.

As Greenville Lumber Company grew larger, they needed a larger area for their business. Sherman said he purchased a lot on Highway 82, today’s location, from his uncle.

Black said in the early 1970s, Sherman sold the Greenville Lumber Company to a competitor, reaping in his retirement. After his wife passed in 2013, Sherman moved his residency out of Greenville.

“I just felt it was time for me to leave the business and retire,” Sherman said. “My wife was sick at the time as well.”

Sherman said when he closed, all of his workers were well known and were able to find jobs elsewhere. At one time he had 23 employees, he said.

Greenville Mayor John Cox was unsure of who currently owned the old Greenville Lumber Company property, but said after an attempt to fix it up, they let the building deteriorate.

Two weeks ago, the iconic building of the 1970’s Greenville Lumber Company on U.S. 82 began to be flattened by subcontractor Henry Construction. They are currently working to clear the property.

Cox said, the city will charge the cost of demolition to property taxes.

When asked if it bothered him to see the building go, Sherman said, “It was looking so bad for so long that it wasn’t that hard.”

___

Information from: Delta Democrat-Times, https://www.ddtonline.com

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