North Bend’s Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage is ending its run as a family business after more than 60 years.
Cindy Everson, former owner of the storage center and descendent of the Butters family, which began the operations as a cedar mill in the 1950s, is leaving the business after 28 years. In her place, Everett-based Coast Real Estate Management will operate the local storage business for the Skagit Valley Indian Tribe, the new owners of the business.
Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage, located on the corner of SE North Bend Way and SE 140th Street, isn’t just a longtime Valley business, Everson said. It originated from the cedar mill bought in the 1950s by her grandfather, George McKean Butters. Butters bought the mill from Pierce and Stow and cut old growth cedar to create shingles and shakes. Everson’s family moved to North Bend about 10 years after Butters began operating the mill and helped him run the business.
“We moved here in 1961 and my grandpa ran the mill until he passed away. I worked in the office here, my mom worked in the office and my dad worked at the mill with my brother,” she said. “After my grandfather died, my dad and mom took it over. We had that until about 1989 or so, until the old growth cedar was gone.”
Once that cedar was gone, Everson’s father Tom Thornton decided to change up the business and become North Bend’s first storage facility in 1989. With the change in industry, Everson took on the primary role of running the storage center with her sister, Jamie. The two sisters ran the day-to-day operations for 15 years before Jamie moved to Arizona to run a restaurant.
In 2015, the family sold the business to the Skagit Valley Indian Tribe, which uses Coast Real Estate Management to handle its business operations. Everson stayed on to help transition the business, but is now saying goodbye to her long-time home.
“I wanted to make sure the transition was smooth. I was going to stay for a year and now it’s been a little over two and I just decided that it was time to go,” she said.
Everson is going to take some time off before pursuing a new career.
Before looking forward, Everson reminisced on some of the memories she had growing up on the property.
In 1963, the mill burned down when a spark from a burner ignited a pile of sawdust; Everson was only 2 years old.
“We had a burner which gave us all kinds of problems with the EPA because they were always out here giving us tickets,” she said. “If the East wind blew we had to shut down because it was warm and the wind was blowing the cinders into town… We were always wetting things down because you’ve got all these piles of sawdust and all it takes is one spark to land in the middle of that if it’s too dry. So dad was always out there with the hose, wetting everything down. Then we had to take the burner out.”
The family rebuilt the mill and lived in a house behind the property during the mill’s many years of operation.
She grew up on the property, and while she doesn’t live there any more, she looks back fondly on the memories of that time.
“I’ve been here on this property for pretty much my whole life,” she said. “Lots of good memories, every night I would come over (to the main office), up the big stairs to the file room where my dad was filing saws and sharpening them for the next day to tell him ‘time for dinner.’”
As a child, Everson remembered listening to the train stop by the mill at night as the mill workers loaded up a box car to send the shingles and shakes up to Canada.
“I had friends spending the night and we had train whistles going off, and at that time we had a night shift too, so the saws were going all night,” she said. “They were going ‘how do you sleep?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t hear any of that’ It’s just background noise.”
Everson’s last day working at the storage center was June 16, and while she said she was going to miss running the family business, her future opportunities excited her as well.
“I got a bachelor’s (degree) in criminal justice, so that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to get out and do something different, so I’m going to look for something in the field,” she said. “But for the next few months I’m going to take some time off because I’ve never not worked. I have a few months to just do want I want to do.”