Perfect Plank – From Father’s Business to Family Business

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“Dad certainly had a sense of the right way to do things,” Jim Horne says. “He had the audacity to name his business ‘Perfect.’ I would have called it ‘Imperfect Plank’ – give a little room for human error! But his standards were very, very high. Over the past 50 years, we’ve done our best to follow those standards.”

Jim’s father, Roy Horne, left his job as a research engineer in the early 1950s to embark on a mission to make use of the lumber industry’s discarded – and therefore wasted – wood. Roy revived an old method of removing defects, cutting grooves into the ends of wood strips, and lacing the resulting “fingers” together. With a little glue and a little pressure, Roy’s son Terry explains, “the bond is so durable that if a finger-jointed strip is made to break, the wood will usually shatter before the joint comes apart.”

It took nearly a decade of working with investors and lumber companies to bring Perfect Plank to life in Oroville  in 1961. Roy’s wife Doris captained the finances of the venture, and their three grade-school aged sons, Jim, Terry and Bob, lent a hand with tasks like cleaning up the shop. Jim recalls the hours his parent’s spent on paperwork, invoicing, and typing promotional literature.

art-0601-plank3“I guess Dad probably always wanted us to join the company,” Jim says, “but all of us went pretty different ways.”  Terry went into accounting, Bob into the navy, and Jim into journalism. The business of perfection, after all, belonged to their father. Perfect Plank was Roy’s work and pleasure, into which he poured his heart and soul.

When Roy announced he was going to sell Perfect Plank, however, father’s business suddenly became family business. “I went nuts,” Jim says, “I couldn’t stand the idea of him selling what he had worked so hard at for 20 years.” After Jim joined their father, Terry volunteered his accounting expertise “on the side,” and Bob offered to “fix a few things” after returning from the navy. Before he knew it, however, Terry found himself working full time at Perfect Plank. Bob, meanwhile, discovered a natural inclination toward everything from the artistry of the block to the maintenance of the machines. Though not what they had intended, the three brothers realized their father’s Perfect Plank might fit them perfectly too.

Roy passed away in 1987, but his company lives on though his three sons and his grandson Adam. A dozen local residents form the rest of the team, including Calvin Halstead, a 75-year-old who has served the company since 1969. Operating on South 5th Avenue in Oroville, just a mile from the original plant, Perfect Plank continues to produce beautiful, high-quality butcher block for everything from countertops and cabinetry to stair treads and flooring.

“My dad,” says Jim, “had very strong ideals. He always said, ‘There’s one way to do things, and that’s the right way.’” Judging from Perfect Plank’s success, it seems safe to say Roy’s way was – and still is – the right way.  

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Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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