Case Studies

The Corning Building Co.: Supporting the Community for 165 Years

  • Written by: The Corning Building Co.: Supporting the Community for 165 Years
  • Produced by: The Corning Building Co.: Supporting the Community for 165 Years
  • Estimated reading time: 5 mins

The Corning Building Co. (CBC) has been many things since its establishment in 1848, including a hardware store, a lumber mill and even a coal company. However, through 165 years of business one thing remained constant: CBC has never wavered in its commitment to ensure customers always received the highest level of customer service.

Today the CBC team proudly extends that service through its establishment as a headquarters for home improvements, do-it-yourself projects and building materials. Regardless of the product selection, CBC strives to ensure customers can look to employees for guidance on home improvement projects, in addition to supplying all the building blocks and odds and ends that combine to make a healthy, happy home.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes in the business over time, but the one constant has always been that customers look for great, personal customer service and that’s exactly what we aim to provide,” says Matthew Smith, president of CBC. Matthew runs CBC with the help of older brother Jim Smith Jr., vice president of commercial and contractor sales for CBC, as well as brother-in-law Dennis Mryglot, vice president of operations for CBC.

CBC’s history dates back to 1848, the same year its hometown of Corning, N.Y., incorporated as a standalone village. Back then CBC provided the Corning construction community with an array of building materials and sawed timber under the name Walker & Turner Hardware. The company rebuilt its sawmills twice after fires destroyed the original mills in 1872 and 1884, and sold off the hardware component entirely in 1890.

The unwavering path to the company’s current inception didn’t stop there. CBC witnessed three important milestones in 1905. The company officially incorporated under the CBC name and also purchased Corning Coal Company, an important resource to the city’s famous glass companies. Most importantly, William T. Smith became the company’s treasurer in 1905, setting the stage for four generations of Smith family members to guide CBC’s return to its roots as a building material supplier.

Resilience and Renewal

Expansion from CBC’s headquarters on Market Street in Corning’s historic Gaffer District added another location for the team’s paint department in 1933. CBC then reacquired its hardware division in 1940 and amassed several locations lining Market Street, with each location selling only a certain selection of products. In a great show of resilience, CBC made the most of Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

CBC’s Market Street locations suffered considerable damage from the flood, but the Smith family and CBC team came together to acquire a new and larger place to call home.

“By 1976 we took the opportunity through urban renewal to consolidate the four or five locations we had before the flood to a single 40,000-square foot store,” explains Matthew. “We remodeled the store, which was also had been under water from the same flood.”

CBC also built eight sheds behind headquarters before moving, including two drive-through sheds. The additional space under one roof provides the team with enough room to supply every building product and appliance needed to create a dream home, including the paint, furniture and housewares.

“In fact, we even sold TVs, stereos, records and tapes until the mid-’80s,” explains Matthew. “People need to remember that when we made the big move in 1976, the Home Depots of the world weren’t in existence. We created a ‘complete home and idea center’ shopping experience by having everything customers needed for their homes under one roof with drive through sheds. Prior to that people had to shop at several stores to complete their projects.”

An outpost in Bath, N.Y., was later added in 1996 under the name Bath Building Co. Both CBC locations stock lumber, building materials, hardware, appliances, paint, electrical, lawn and garden, housewares, flooring, windows and doors. However, only the Corning location operates a fully loaded kitchen and bath design center.

“Just this year we hired two more design professionals for a total of five,” adds Matthew. “We’re seeing the design center really build momentum with the consumer as they choose to gradually complete remodeling projects instead of building from scratch or buying a new home.”

Sharing Success

Especially in the wake of the economic downturn, the kitchen and bath design center provides an essential service to the consumer that most big-box stores simply can’t. CBC’s product selection probably isn’t all that different from that of a big-box store, but the company strives to provide an unmatched level of customer service, simply by treating every employee well. According to Matthew, this includes everything from offering employees fair wages and competitive benefit packages, promoting from within and simply building a work environment where each employee enjoys his or her job.

It is clear that Matthew’s treatment of CBC’s 55 full-time employees does not go unnoticed. The company boasts a large number of professionals with at least 10 years of experience at CBC, with 15 employees being with the company for at least 25 years.

“We have even had a few employees go to work for the big-box stores only to come back to CBC,” admits Matthew. A few staff members even ventured out to the field as construction professionals before coming back to the company, where their expertise nicely compliments CBC’s longevity.

For the Good of the Community

CBC serves both professional contractors and homeowners alike, providing each customer with educated, informed product recommendations and timely deliveries on request. When a project veers too far out of do-it-yourself territory, CBC is also able to make recommendations for a suitable, licensed and professional local contractor for the job.

“When a customer needs a chimney fixed or a deck built, were happy to supply a few names of local contractors that might be good for the job since we have been in the area such a long time,” says Matthew.

The team is able to make such recommendations due to well-regarded working relationships, including CBC’s connection with Marvin Windows and Doors (Marvin), a Minnesota-based window and door manufacturer, dating back to 2001. The CBC team proudly supplied many of the windows and doors to replace the older, less efficient originals when partnering with Marvin on redevelopment projects along Market Street in downtown Corning.

“We partnered with Marvin to supply all of the windows since each one had to be custom ordered,” states Matthew. “The windows are very high and very wide, so energy efficiency was a concern, but the biggest priority was really supplying a window that preserved the building’s historic integrity.”

The team at CBC is more than just a supplier for commercial contractors and local homeowners; the company is a cornerstone in the Corning community. With that credit comes dedication, which the Smith family and team at CBC have proven to possess. It is apparent that the team will strive to ensure The Corning Building Co. will continue to support Corning’s home improvement projects and urban redevelopments for years to come.

Published on: March 12, 2013

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