Eddie Cottle Sr., the founder and longtime proprietor of E.C. Cottle Lumberyard., died on November 9th at the age of 87. Quiet, fair, modest, and generous, he had a big heart and a fine sense of humor. He lived on Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury, where the yard is located, for almost his entire life.
For the last 43 years, E.C. Cottle has been South Mountain’s primary lumberyard. It was there long before we were here, opening in the early fifties when Ed was in his early twenties.
As it says in Ed’s obituary, “He worked tirelessly to make the lumberyard a very successful and well respected business. He appreciated his customers and his employees. He never forgot his humble beginnings and would often, very quietly, help a contractor or anyone else if he saw that they were struggling.”
Many years ago we needed a stationary shaper for our shop. There was one in the E.C. Cottle shop that was never used; it had a thick coating of dust and was piled high with Playboy and Penthouse. I asked Ed if he wanted to sell it.
“Sure,” he said. “We never use it.”
“How much do you want for it?” I asked.
“Oh I don’t know,” he replied, “Just put the magazines on the floor, take the shaper, and we’ll figure it out later.”
We moved the shaper to our shop. And for years after that, whenever I saw him, I’d say, “Hey Ed, we need to settle up for that shaper, remember?”
He’d mutter something and never answer the question. One time he said, “Oh forget it, we’re square.”
It became a refrain. Whenever I saw him, I’d say “when are we gonna settle up on that shaper?”
He’d chuckle and say, “We’re square.”
South Mountain still uses the shaper today.
My friend Richard Greene told me, at Ed’s internment, that the last time he’d had a laugh with Ed was at the opening of our new shop 20 years ago. The two were looking at all the beautifully crafted woodwork made from reclaimed lumber, full of nail holes and defects. Ed leaned over to Richard, grinning, and said, “Where I come from we throw that stuff away.”
Where Ed came from business was done on a handshake, loyalty was a virtue, and there was nothing but the truth. That’s good business, in my view. He was a good man.
This was great! You captured Ed perfectly. He really was one of the great ones!! Thanks for sharing.
Great story of one mans life, wish I had a chance to meet him. Thanks for sending it.
Hi John ,
I just read your blog about old man Cottle (that’s the term he used to describe himself!), He was my uncle and one of my best friends. Everything you said about him is absolutely true. He was the type of man that still believed that a handshake and a man’s word was all you needed.
Throughout the years him and I would have long talks about the construction business , how it’s changing , which contractors are the good ones , the bad ones and all of them in between.
I want you to know that South Mountain Company was at the very top of his list! And for anyone to gain his praise that way was huge! He was a funny man at times. If he ever had a bad experience with anyone , that would be it and you’d end up at the bottom of the list!! SMC never fell down the list, for that you should be proud!
John — Lovely tribute to your friend Ed. A good inspiration for how to do business and life that just happened to be timely for me this morning…