By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
DUMAS – After a long day at work in Tupelo, Zonny Bullock often drives another hour so he can work on his hobby.
But his hobby also is his passion, and he spends another few hours on it.
Bullock has a sawmill, which he uses to custom-cut a variety of wood, including pine, oak, cedar, cottonwood, poplar and walnut.
His grandfather and great-grandfather were in the lumber business, so it is in his blood to work with wood.
“Its something I’ve always wanted to do,” Bullock said.
He bought the large saw 10 years ago from the Baker Co. in Missouri. After touring the plant and seeing the company’s specifications met his preferences, Bullock bought it and had it delivered on a large tractor-trailer to his parents’ home in Dumas.
Zonny’s father, Fred, was a longtime agriculture teacher and also worked for the U.S. Postal Service. He farmed, but the timber business didn’t do much for him.
Still, he helps Zonny at the sawmill, which sits out in the open.
There, timber logs as wide as 36 inches, as high as 32 inches and as long as 24 feet can be sawed, producing lumber planks as large or small as a customer wants.
Customer-order lumber can’t be bought at big-box retailers, and small independent operations like Bullock’s are rare these days.
“It’s really a dying breed,” he said. “There just aren’t too many left around these days.”
And that worried his father a bit when he first heard about Zonny’s plans.
“Before he bought it, I asked him if he was sure this was what he wanted to do,” Fred Bullock said. “He said it was. And it’s been good for him.”
Indeed, Zonny Bullock has built a loyal, albeit small, customer base.
“He does great work,” said Wayne Goolsby, whose had several thousand feet of lumber cut by Bullock.
“He sawed some cedar, poplar and pine for me,” he said. “I build bird houses, and I’m 75, so I can’t do what he does. You can’t get it done anywhere else. I’ve probably had 5,000 to 6,000 feet of wood cut here.”
Another longtime customer, Barry Yancey, has built a cabin from lumber he had cut at Bullock’s.
“He’s got fair prices and he does really good work,” Yancey said. “You don’t find that kind of work being done like that much anymore.”
Zonny Bullock said his small side business, officially called Bullock Sawmill & Lumber Co., will take on just about any job as long as his sawmill can handle it.
“We cut lumber for houses, for tables, benches; we cut two-by-fours, two-by-sixes… whatever the customer wants,” he said.
The logs are dropped off near the mill, and Bullock takes it from there, cutting it the way a customer wants.
A log is fed into the sawmill, and with the help of a computer, helps precision-cut the log. The cut lumber is moved by Bullock onto a nearby table, where its trimmed and edged.
“And it’s a true two-by-four or two-by-six you get, which isn’t always the case at big-box stores,” he said.
Bullock has put in nearly a quarter-century at Cooper Tire in Tupelo, a job he enjoys. But he’d also like for his hobby to turn into a full-time job one day since it’s where his true passion lays.
“Business has been pretty good,” he said. “A lot of it is just word-of-mouth, and we’ve run an ad in the paper. We get a lot of repeat customers, too.”
He plans to add more equipment as the company grows, but has no specific time frame in mind.
His wife, Natalie, says they’ve been blessed with the growth of his hobby-turned-business.
“When we were evaluating everthing last year, it has slowed down because of the economy,” she said. “But this year, it’s just been booming. It’s a great problem to have.”
BULLOCK’S SAWMILL & LUMBER CO. For more information, call (662) 837-5258 or (662) 213-2942.