Clapper’s Building Materials in Meyersdale to close by mid-summer

April 16, 2019

MEYERSDALE — An end of an era has come to Meyersdale as the third-generation Clapper family, Dave and Jon Clapper, prepare to close their operation on 11th Avenue after 94 years in business.

Dave Clapper, 72, and Jon Clapper, 69, are holding a retirement sale for the next few months with different department products being discounted until everything is gone by the end of June. This closing will affect five employees, some of whom are near retirement.

“We feel blessed we were able to be as successful for as long as we were,” said Dave. “We are thankful for our customers and their loyalty throughout the years. It is bittersweet for us because now Meyersdale will be left without a home center.”

Jon Clapper explained there are many reasons why the hard decision was made to close.

“We didn’t want to start over again and in this building climate, small stores like us would have to reinvent retail in order to survive,” said Jon. “We wanted to retire and go out on top without any debt.”

Business has not been as robust as it once was in southern Somerset County because not as many new homes are being built from foundation to roof anymore, said Jon. Nowadays, many new homes are modular homes, which are constructed in sections off-site and then brought in to the site and put together.

“Modulars are built in factories and those factories have staff who keep up with all the building codes and if there are any code changes, then they adjust their product,” said Jon.

Dave agreed that local contractors today have a hard time keeping up with the building regulations, permitting and licensing fees and they almost always have to hire a full-time employee to handle all that.

At one time in the 1970s and 1980s, Clappers employed more than 20 people and had a fleet of trucks with a ready mix business of concrete blocks and septic tanks. They were supplying products for more than 20 new homes a year and their slogan was “From foundation to roof.” The brothers said that the business was successful because of the new housing market back then but very few homes are “stick-built” (meaning constructed on site) anymore.

Plus, internet sales have hurt all retail businesses, not just hardware and building materials but also clothing stores and small shops, said Jon.

Also in recent years, both Dave and Jon knew that their children would not want to return home to Meyersdale to operate the building center.

Dave’s son Jude teaches at the Tai/American School in Taiwan and has two children. His other son, Josh, owns his own company called MacDoctor (a computer company) and is relocating from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California. Josh has two children.

Jon’s son Gabe had worked for Amazon and now works for Google. Gabe has a son. Jon’s daughter Jess Clapper works for Zillow in Seattle, Washington.

“We knew that this company was not going to the fourth generation and we knew it was time to make a decision to retire,” said Jon.

The Clappers had tried to sell the store in recent years to larger regional chains or individual buyers but nothing worked out. The brothers owned the nearby table plant called Clapper Industries as well but sold that industry on July 1 of last year to Jonathan and Elizabeth Simpkins. Jon Clapper will transition that company completely to the new owners in the next four years. It is now called Clapper Table Enterprises and is separate from the store.

“Customers are saying how sad this is,” said employee Barb Steinrich, who has worked for this company since September 1978. “The owners have not only given a service to the community with building products but also gave donations and time throughout the years and for this reason, they will be missed. They provided a local means of taking care of the immediate needs of customers but times have changed.”

Dave, Jon and their sister, Kim Clapper, who lives near the business in the historic homestead owned by grandfather, Carl, are the third-generation Clapper family living in Meyersdale. Their father, Robert, who was married to the former Doris Byers, owned and operated Clappers in his lifetime.

Their grandfather, Carl, started the business in 1925 in his horse stable and gradually developed concrete products in the next few years. The concrete blocks on the lower building were actually made on site in the 1930s and used for building their own store.

Carl was drafted into World War I in April 1918 and survived the Battle of Argonne Forest in France, but had two of his fingers shot off. Still that did not deter him from making concrete products after he returned to Meyersdale.

He married the former Margaret Saylor and had three children, Marie, Robert and Dale. Both Robert and Dale went to World War II and returned home to Meyersdale and the name was then changed to Clapper’s Building Materials. Bob became the general manager at the store and Dale opened Clapper’s Manufacturing, a laminated table top business. He later sold it and it was renamed Penn Tables, which later closed.

Dale went on to work for Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, but returned years later to Meyersdale and helped start Clapper Industries, now owned by the Simpkins.

The company purchased Growall Planing Mill in Rockwood and opened their second store in 1957. That satellite store was closed a few months ago and is now being cleaned out for a possible renter in the future.

Likewise, the Clappers hope to either sell or rent the 11th Avenue site but have no definite plans as of yet.