L to R: Wil Blackshear, Yang Sen and Ihlo
Sales President Roy Blackshrear are seen
with crates of Ihlo plywood at a customer’s
facility in Elkhart, Indiana.
so bad that Dad started charging $1.00 per
page, sending or receiving.
Ihlo Sales continued to grow and I
continued to take trips with Dad two times
per year to Asia. We had settled on several
mills in each country to only buy from.
Dad had to write out grade rules for
different species of wood for doorskins and
fancy plywood for the different suppliers
to use for our products. Many of the
grade rules are still used by manufacturers
worldwide for their normal production
and his grade rules were adopted by the
International Wood Products Association to
be the grade standards.
By the mid 1980’s I was traveling
by myself to Asia. Mostly to Taiwan,
Indonesia, and Hong Kong. Trips lasted
about 18 days, visiting doorskin and
plywood plants. Not so much on a buying
trip, as we now did that from Center, TX.
But for inspection of quality of the product.
We hired Brenda Miller in 1989 and
Sheri Miller in 1993. We expanded the
building with more offices.
In 1992, we hired Danny Foster. He had
been working for one of our competitors
and was a great addition to the Ihlo team.
Dad opened up Brazil in the early
1990’s. Made several trips down there and
took his grade rules for raw plywood and
started a new business for us.
I continued to make trips to Asia, but
then he started sending Danny and I to
Brazil a couple of times a year for inspection
of the plywood mills he had chosen. So, I
was making 3-5 trips overseas a year, but I
loved to travel so it was OK by me.
My sister, Kristi, came to work in sales
in the early 1990’s. In fact, all three of my
sisters, Janan, Pat, and Kristi have worked
for the company in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
By the late ‘90s, we needed more help.
Ginger Russell came to work in 1998. She
remained with the company 15 years before
taking an early retirement. Sales were
strong, suppliers out of Asia and Brazil
were giving us good quality plywood and
In August of 2001, I was in Indonesia
visiting plywood mills. Now those mills are
not in cities. They are in the middle of the
jungle. Took a boat with a 40 horsepower
engine up river for 2-5 hours, got to the
mill for inspection, back down the river for
2-5 hours (depending on what mill I was
visiting), and stayed at the local hotel for
USD $10.00 per night. Terrible hotels, but
that is all they had. That was a typical trip
to a mill.
September 4th, I was in Jakarta when a
huge crowd was marching, protesting U.S.
and trying to overtake the U.S. Embassy.
My main supplier overseas, Liang, called
and said I had to leave the country, that
something was going on.
I left on the 5th at 3:00am before the
crowds came out to protest, and cancelled
the rest of my trip. Six days later, 9/11
happened. A horrible day in the history of
Danny and I had a trip into Peru. The
terrorist group called the Shining Path were
very active in the jungle towns that we
Many a time we had soldiers point their
guns at us until they saw our passports.
One trip we were on an old DC9 and we
realized we were the only 2 people with
Everybody else had tires or small
chicken coops with chickens in them.
When we got off the plane, a group of
soldiers took us to the side as they looked
through our stuff. A lot of guns were
pointed at us!
Dad continued to be very active in the
company, calling customers, working with
suppliers, and managing the company.
But, in the summer of 2003, I lost my
dad. It was a very difficult time for me and
all the staff at Ihlo Sales.
Our business remained strong in the
U.S. and with our suppliers. But, doorksins
like Birch and Red Oak were falling out of
favor with consumers.
They wanted the molded doorskins
for interior doors. That business slowly
disappeared. But our business with R.V.
manufacturers and distributors continued
to grow. Four out of ten RV’s on the road in
the U.S. has Ihlo Sales plywood in it.
My son, Wil Blackshear, came to
work in 2013. Started like I did, reading
about production, listening to telephone
conversations with customers, going to visit
customers with Danny and I, learning the
ins and outs of all the paperwork.
In the fall of 2017, we had another
tragedy when we lost Danny. That was also
a difficult time for me and all the staff at Ihlo
The incredible staff at Ihlo Sales has
seen a lot of changes over the years, from
different products, different suppliers, no
high tech to 100 percent high tech. A lot of
changes over the last 47 years.
I have been lucky that I love to travel.
I have made well over 40 trips to Asia
over the years. China, Taiwan, Malaysia,
Indonesia, and Hong Kong have been more
Ihlo Sales continues to be one of the
largest importers of plywood out of Asia,
bringing in 120-150 18-wheeler loads to
the ports of Camden, Baltimore, and New
Orleans every 45 days. And delivering
80-120 truckloads per month to different
customers all over the U.S.
Our business, like so many others,
took a huge hit in the Spring of 2020 with
COVID-19. From suppliers being shut
down in the different countries, to our
customers being shut down.
Business is better, just ready for it to be
back to normal.
26 Business MATTERS | 2020 Fall Edition