The city isn't the only thing celebrating a birthday this year -- Westerville's oldest business is now 100 years old.

The city isn't the only thing celebrating a birthday this year -- Westerville's oldest business is now 100 years old.

Wilson F. Cellar, along with 10 other individuals, pooled $5,400 to open the first branch of the Cellar Lumber Co. in Westerville in 1908. Now tucked away in a small office on East College Avenue, the lumber company continues to sell all manner of exterior and interior building materials.

"I started working here when I was 16," said president John B. Miller. "Probably the reason we've been able to survive so long is our diversity, and how we've been spread out."

After Cellar first opened his lumber company in 1908, nine other branches were opened in central Ohio and as far south as Chillicothe. Today, the company's five remaining locations are in Westerville, Sunbury, Johnstown, Chillicothe and Circleville.

Miller said Cellar's original practice of talking straight and plain with his customers has also played a key role in the company's longevity.

"Wilson was a very giving individual. He did very well for himself and gave back a lot," Miller said.

The company still operates under its original slogan, "Honest, Courteous Service Builds Our Business," which was coined by the founder's wife, Carrie Cellar, in 1908, he added.

The company has not gone without hardships over the years, however. One was a devastating fire in 1912, only four years after the company's inception.

"The story goes that it was so cold out that the fire hydrants were frozen," Miller said.

The fire originated in the office building, where Cellar was thawing out a water pipe, according to records provided by the Westerville Public Library. Gas escaping from the pipe ignited and flames quickly spread through the business.

With fire hydrants frozen, water was hauled in the town sprinkler and in milk cans. When that proved insufficient, Cellar's neighbors helped to quickly chop down a section of shed to prevent the fire from spreading to the planing mill. Cellar himself fell from a window while leaving the burning office, but escaped serious injury.

In all, the fire destroyed about $6,000 worth of finish lumber, flooring and siding, along with all records that the Cellars' had kept of the company's history prior to 1912.

Miller said Cellar Lumber's offices have been located at 154 E. College Ave. since 1976. He added that the company's history and slogan of honest, courteous service has allowed it to survive the last century, and hopefully, will carry it into the future.

"Repeat business by satisfied customers has been the backbone of our business for the past 100 years and will continue to be the backbone for the next 100 years," Miller said.

lrice@thisweeknews.com