Founded in 1896.
Built for the Future.
The Lester Group is a diverse company that was founded by George Tilden Lester in 1896 in Martinsville. The Lester Group’s primary interests are in lumber products and real estate development in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Our holdings include five full service building materials stores serving the needs of professional builders, contractors, remodelers and homeowners in five major Virginia markets. The company also has a rigorous residential and commercial real estate portfolio and over 18,000 acres of timberland and a door manufacturing plant.
The Lester Group has also owned the Jim Carpenter Co. in Fredericksburg, VA since 1974. In addition to the Jim Carpenter Co., The Lester Group started Fortress Door Company in 2016 in Fredericksburg, and the company is backed by The Lester Group’s 125 years of experience within the industry.
A Values-Driven Company
- We operate with honesty, integrity and respect.
- We believe in earning a fair and reasonable profit.
- We share time, service and resources within each community we serve.
- We provide training and development to ensure the growth and success of our company.
- We offer service-driven response to our customers by exceeding expectations.
- We embrace the importance of employee ownership (ESOP) and accountability.
- Quality provided—setting the standard by which all others are measured.
- We encourage a fun and innovative workplace by recognizing and rewarding our customers and employees.
- We empower our employees to make decisions that continue to further our growth.
- We believe in Christian values guiding our decisions.
For 125 years, The Lester Group has built its legacy upon strong values, dedicated people, a passion for our community and purpose-driven work. We take pride in being rooted in Martinsville and its history, as well as building relationships with local businesses and inspiring growth. With an eye toward the future, we look forward to growing with our community for many years to come.
George W. Lester, II
George W. Lester, II is an industrial engineering Cum Laude graduate of North Carolina State University. Currently semi-retired and Co-Chairman of the Board since 2019, he had been President and CEO of The Lester Group, Inc. since 1983, and President of Lester Development Corporation since 1975. Mr. Lester is Past Chairman of the Martinsville/Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Past President of IBSA (Independent Builder’s Supply Association), the Virginia Forest Association, and VBMA (Virginia Building Materials Association), as well as Past Chairman of the United Way of Martinsville & Henry County and the Martinsville/Henry County Economic Development Corporation. He was one of the organizers of Carter Bank and is now retired from the Board of Directors. He is also Chairman of Safety/Link, Inc., an organization formed to promote the construction of I-73. Mr. Lester’s entire career has been involved in building materials for the retail consumer and professional builder, the manufacture of related forest products, management of forestlands, land conservation, real estate development and management. He is married (Lee) and has five children. He joined the Lester Group Board in 1957.
James A. O’Brien
James A. O’Brien was born in Michigan and received his Bachelor’s Degree from Ferris State University. He is recently retired as CEO of The Lester Group. He has been in the building materials industry since college graduation. Previous to joining The Lester Group, he was a Vice President with VNS Corporation, President and CEO of Triangle Building Supply, and held a Vice President level position with Moore’s Building Supply. In the past Jim served on his church’s Parish Council as Chairman, was on the Forest Products Committee for LBM Advantage, and served for 10 years on the Board and as an Executive Committee Member for the Southern Building Materials Association and the Building Materials Suppliers Association, including holding the positon as Chairman. Jim also serves as Vice Chairman for Lester Development and is currently serving as Co-Chairman of The Lester Group. He joined The Lester Group Board in 2014.
Martha S. Cooper
Martha S. Cooper joined the Lester Group Board in 2013 and is Vice Chairman of the Board. She is a life-long resident of Martinsville, Virginia. She is a Certified Public Accountant with her accounting practice located in the “Clock Tower” building on Franklin Street in Martinsville. She graduated from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Economics and Business Administration. Prior to beginning her private practice she held finance and accounting positions with Piedmont Arts Association and the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants. Now single, she has one adult son, Charles. She is a lifelong member of Broad Street Christian Church in Martinsville and serves as Treasurer for the Church Board.
Jay Dickens has an extensive background in serving the building industry, Jay Dickens worked throughout the industry at both large publicly traded companies and entrepreneurial enterprises. Prior to joining The Lester Group, he was vice president of American Direct; vice president and GM of ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas; president of Doors In Motion, Inc, President of the Hendricks Companies and President of Rugby Building Products. Jay is active in the YMCA board, the Chamber of Commerce and is board chair of the Boys and Girls club of the Blue Ridge. He graduated from Millsaps College with degrees in Finance and Political Science. Jay has been active in the NLBMA and now is involved in the Building Materials Supply Association.
Richard E. Heath
Richard E. Heath has over 45 years of professional experience in public accounting and helping industry to maximize its potential. He was a Tax Manager with Arthur Andersen & Co (1974-1980) and worked for over 10 years as the Chief Financial Officer of a multi-location building material merchant before starting his own practice in 1991. A major part of his practice involves working with single- store and multi-location building materials retailers. His work includes assisting clients in various financial and managerial areas including evaluation of internal controls and fraud deterrence, financial structuring of organizations, tax and succession planning, financial performance reviews and goal setting. Richard has worked with and facilitated roundtables in the building material industry for over 35 years. His roundtables include those for CFO’s, general managers and owners. Richard earned a Bachelor in Science degree from Florida State University (1969) and a Masters in Accounting from Florida State University (1974). He served in the US Air Force as an Accounting and Finance Officer from 1969-1972 attaining the rank of Captain. He became a Certified Public Accountant in 1974, and currently holds a license to practice in South Carolina. Richard joined the Lester Group Board in 2009.
Philip G. Gardner
Philip G. Gardner was born in Roanoke, VA, and graduated from Martinsville High School in 1965. He then went on to VMI where he was a distinguished Military Graduate and Academic Student. From there he proceeded to Washington & Lee School of Law where he graduated cum laude. He initially worked as a law clerk to Honorable H. Emory Widener who was with the US District Court and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He joined the law firm of Frith, Gardner & Gardner in 1973, which evolved to Gardner, Barrow, Sharpe & Pearson, P. C. He has served two terms on the Board of Governors, VTLA, two terms on the Board of Governors/Litigation Section, and two terms on the District Ethics Committee. In 1998 Phil was elected to the American College of Trial Lawyers which recognizes the top 1 percent of trial lawyers in the country. Phil has been married to his wife Lynn for 44 years, has four sons and is a life long member of Christ Episcopal Church in Martinsville. He enjoys working on his farm, riding his Harley Davidson, fly fishing and grouse hunting. He joined the Lester Group Board in 2011.
George W. Lester, IV
George W. Lester, IV is the Vice President of Information Technology for Rimini Street, Inc. Prior to this position, George was the Technology Support Manager for a subsidiary of SAP AG. George has held several senior roles in enterprise software implementations including Infrastructure Manager, Software Architect, and Senior Database Administrator. During his career he has provided consulting services for a variety of clients in industries including retail, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, and financial services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Science and Information Technology from Virginia Tech. He is married (Beth) and has two children. He joined the Lester Group Board in 2004.
Gregory S. Brooks
Gregory S. Brooks is President and CEO of the Building Supply Channel, Inc. in New Albany, Indiana. He is editor and publisher of LBM Executive, a steering committee member at the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies, and a 53-year veteran of the construction supply business with 18 years’ experience in the field. He is a market analyst specializing in residential building material distribution in North America. He was a founding editor of Hanley-Wood’s ProSales magazine, the leading trade publication serving the construction supply industry. He has authored or co-authored numerous industry studies, including The State of Professional Building Product Distribution (Hanley-Wood, 1999), Key Trends in the U.S. Renovation Market (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation 2005), Building Product Distribution (Principia Consulting, 2008) and Scope of the Lumber and Building Material Industry (National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, 2011). He is moderator of the Executive Council on Construction Supply, a private think tank composed of market-leading independent building material dealers in 46 states and eight Canadian provinces, plus leading manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and technology providers. The Building Supply Channel, Inc. also operates the BSCI Learning Management System, an online platform that has provided skills training to over 15,000 building supply employees since 2002.
Neil S. Kessler
Neil S. Kessler is a retired partner in the international law firm Troutman Pepper LLP (formerly Troutman Sanders LLP). Since his retirement in 2018, he has continued to represent real estate clients in his own firm, Neil S. Kessler Law Office, PLLC, and is a part time legal specialist for the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of General Services in its Division of Real Estate and Facilities Management. He is also currently the vice chair and a commissioner for the Richmond (VA) Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He has extensive experience in all areas of real estate, including the acquisition, development, financing, leasing, construction and sale of apartment projects, office buildings, shopping centers, office parks, hotels, mixed-use projects and residential developments. He has advised banks, contractors, developers and insurance companies on commercial real estate matters, including workouts and foreclosures. He is a Fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, currently serving as the chair of its Insurance Committee, and has been and continues to be a member of many other local, state and national professional, civic and charitable organizations. Neil is an undergraduate of Washington and Lee University and received his law degree from George Washington University School of Law in 1973. He lives in Richmond with his wife of 47 years and has two daughters and four granddaughters. He joined The Lester Group Board in 2018.
J. Stuart Wiswall
J. Stuart Wiswall is a licensed Professional Geologist in Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania specializing in environmental, chemical management and hazardous waste issues. He has over 35 years of experience in the oil exploration and environmental industries. He is an accredited professional in the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design (LEED) program. Stuart worked with The Lester Group for five years as the Assistant General Manager for Home Center operations. He is a 1978 graduate of Colgate University where he earned a BS degree in Geology. He currently resides near Philadelphia with his wife and has two grown daughters. He joined the Lester Group Board in 2010 and serves on the finance committee.
W. Douglas Wright
W. Douglas Wright has over 30 years’ experience in the industrial and commercial development industry as a business owner, developer and contractor. His experience includes facility and construction management, consulting liaison and work-out specialist for large national companies. He began his development career in the self-storage industry at Shurgard Capital Group as the Director of Construction and Development and as a member of its Acquisition Committee. He later became one of the original team at StorageUSA, Inc. serving as Vice President of Construction and Development, helping develop its national expansion strategy by targeting and developing target regions throughout the country. In all he has assisted in the acquisition and development of over $250 million of commercial, self-storage real estate. Since then he has developed, owned, operated and sold his own self storage facilities from Florida to Virginia. For the last 15 years he has also been affiliated with commercial brokerage companies where he has specialized in evaluating and marketing single tenant investment opportunities for both buyers and sellers. He is an entrepreneur/agent who has in depth knowledge of market evaluation, structural viability and investment analysis. He continues to work with Harris Commercial Realty in Virginia as a commercial agent for the past 5 years. He specializes in industrial sales of single tenant investments properties along with sale lease back opportunities. He joined The Lester Group in 2017.
N. Dillard Jones
N. Dillard Jones started his career with Riverside Building Supply in Danville, VA in 1958 and was Vice President & General Manager before leaving in 1975. During his time at Riverside, he served in the US Army from 1960 to 1962. In 1975 he became General Manager with Moores Building Supply in Danville concentrating on sales to professional builders. Mr. Jones started with Lester Home Center (now Lester Building Supply) in 1979 as Sales Manager & General Store Manager, moving up to Vice President & General Manager of Home Center Operations in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina in 1984 and to Executive Vice President & COO in 1991, and to President and COO in 2008. He is married (Harriett) and has two children. He joined the Lester Group Board in 1991.