1920: In July of 1920 the young ambitious, J.W. Wilburn Sr took employment with Ed and Sam Ghormley. At that time, they were the Ford people in Lenoir City. Mr. Wilburn’s employment in the car business was short-lived. He quit in the fall of 1920. He and his father promptly entered the restaurant business. (They were in this business for less than a year.)
It was this business that may have actually led to greater things. Their first customers every morning, at approximately 4:30 a.m. were John Bussell Sr. and Avery Norwood of the Eason- Norwood Hardware. They were quite impressed with the hustle and work habits of young Wilburn.
On one particular morning Avery Norwood sent for Wilburn to come see him at the hardware store. Young Wilburn went to work for him that same day. Although he worked for only a month, the hardware business had claimed his soul.
1921: Wilburn went to work for George Fisher, a local city contractor. It was a dirty, smelly and hot job in the month of June. The tar wagon was set up on 3rd Ave in Lenoir City. That same year, J. W. Wilburn ventured into the grocery business.
1923: The Wilburn Family was complete. He and wife Effie were complete with two children, a J.W. Wiburn Jr. and Helen Wilburn Shipley. The grocery store continued several years.
1930: At this time the grocery store was located on 5th Avenue which just a fews years back was the Bivens Sewing Machine Shop. One day, Tom Houston asked Wilburn if he could get him a particular brand of paint. This small request is what led to the hardware business. J.W. Wilbur got that paint and Mr. Houston started buying more and more paint. He also began to buy hardware items and therefore they enlarged the grocery store.
1934: J.W. Wilburn abandoned the grocery completely and gave in to the call of the hardware. It was on 1st Ave and “A” Street in the building that now is the Wilburn warehouse.
1939: J.W. Wilburn moved to Broadway in the current location.
1956: The health of J.W. Wilburn forced him to retire and pass the reins to President- J.W. Wilburn Jr., Vice President-Ralph Shipley, Secretary and Treasurer-Helen Shipley.
1966: The store was expanded to occupy 50 ft of road frontage on Broadway.
1969: J.W. Wilburn Sr. and wife, Effie celebrated their 50 year anniversary.
1976: 111 West Broadway was purchased to once again allow for and expansion.
1977: J.W. Wilburn Sr. passed away from injuries of being hit by a truck while crossing the street at Broadway and B Street. Effie passed away later in 1988.
1986: Wilburn Hardware employed 23 people.
1988: Once again through expansion and remodeling the sales area grew to 13,000 square feet. Effie Wilburn passed away this year.
1992: A new warehouse was built at 203 West Broadway. The total square footage of the store and warehouses was now more than 75,000 square feet.
1998: James William, JW Wilburn passed away on March 19th at the age of 74.
2000: John Smiley was hired as the sales manager for the True Value Commercial Supply Network.
2001: Jim Wilburn III retired. Wilburn shareholders then sold the stocks to Shipley shareholders.
2002: Edwin Wilburn Shipley was then president.
2003: Wilburn Hardware is now under the leadership of Ed Shipley.
2006: Ed Shipley is now acting president.
2007: Ed Shipley celebrates 30 years with the company. They business continues as a family owned and operated business.
2012: Ralph Shipley passed away this year on July 2nd at the age of 93.
2015: Shareholders voted to nominate Nick Shipley as Vice President and Blaire Shipley Burnette as Assistant Secretary.
2016: Helen Shipley resigned and recommended Blaire Shipley Burnette to take her role. Blaire Shipley Burnette-Secretary/Treasurer, Helen Wilburn Shipley – Assistant Secretary