Alex Thomas stood in front of the Halls Business & Professional Association on June 20 and proudly said, “My great, great grandfather Fate Tindell founded Tindell’s in 1892.”
That’s pretty amazing. A fifth generation Tindell is working at Tindell’s Inc. Her dad, Johan van Tilburg, is company president. Her grandpa, Carl Tindell, is retired from the day-to-day grind but still active in groups like the Halls BPA.
Tindell’s is throwing a huge party today (June 23) to commemorate the anniversary, inviting 200-plus employees, their families, company suppliers and customers to the truss plant location at 2644 Byington Solway Road in Karns.
“We are celebrating both our legacy and our future,” said Carl Tindell.
Founded in 1892 by Fate Tindell, the company started as a horse-drawn, steam-powered sawmill. Today, Tindell’s supplies, installs and manufactures a wide range of building materials.
Corporate offices are at 7751 Norris Freeway in Halls.
What else was going on in the year Tindell’s was founded? A quick check on the Internet shows Coca Cola was chartered, General Electric was formed and St. Petersburg, Fla., was incorporated.
Patents were issued for the first escalator, the portable typewriter, the toothpaste tube, book matches and the electric light bulb.
Grover Cleveland was elected the 24th president, the Sierra Club was founded and Ellis Island became the reception center for new immigrants.
In an interview earlier this month, Carl Tindell said he never intended to go into the lumber business, but his dad died when Carl was just 21 and finishing college. “I might have been a rocket scientist,” he joked.
But instead, he joined the family business with his brother, Paul, and cousin, Richard. Carl bought Paul’s interest when he opted to go into politics and excavating.
Carl became CEO at age 22 and gave himself a raise. He had been earning $60 per week while in college.
He said business owners build net worth but rarely have cash. “The struggle is amazing.”
Carl followed his dad, Francis, into state and national associations and community service. Carl was president of the Tennessee Building Materials Association in the early 1980s and chaired the National Lumber Association in 1997. He is the only person to be twice recognized as Halls Man of the Year. Tindell chaired the campaign to purchase land for Clayton Park and he’s a longtime advocate for better roads in North Knox.
He and wife Janice have two daughters, three granddaughters and one grandson.
Carl reflects on his grandfather, born before the Civil War, one of 16 kids. “He had the first car in Halls … was doing all right … but lost everything during the Depression.”
Tindell put his company into the truss business about 40 years ago with a $500 investment. “We’ve done OK,” he says. Tindell’s Inc. will do $50 million in sales this year. At its high mark, the company employed 300. It dropped to 110 during the recent recession, but now has climbed back to 212.
“The future looks bright,” he says. “But it’s a moving target. We’re the oldest business in Halls and one of the oldest in Knoxville. When I started, we were the smallest guy in town. Now most of those bigger guys are gone.”
Tindell’s Inc. now operates five retail locations: Halls, Maryville, Sevierville, Morristown and Cleveland, with a distribution center at the Forks of the River Industrial Park and the truss plant in Karns.
And the community involvement extends past Halls. When wildfires destroyed homes in Gatlinburg, Tindell’s supported the My People fund and donated equipment and storage space to the local rescue department. The company co-sponsors the annual Parade of Homes.