Dealers Supply Company
- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: John Carioti
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Dealers Supply Company has been family-owned and -operated for 95 years. Serving customers in Portland, Oregon, the company began as a feed, seed and farm supply business back in the 1920s. Over the years, the company evolved to serve contractors and now specializes in quality roofing and waterproofing products.
Ken Francis is a fourth-generation owner-operator. His great-grandfather established the company in 1920. “My great-grandfather was a farmer in Nebraska,” Francis recounts. “He had four sections of land and when he retired, he sold one and gave the rest to his three sons. Two of them sold and one stayed. Eventually they all made it to Oregon. Because they had been farmers, they started selling feed and seed. Soon they were selling more seed than the seed mill could provide, so they bought the mill. The business kept growing from there.”
“I started sweeping the floors when I was 12,” he adds. “I serve as company president now and I’ve done everything in between.” Francis also has an older brother Pete, who has recently retired. Now his son, Craig Francis, and Pete’s son Brian Francis are working for the company as the fifth generation. They both started out sweeping the floors and driving trucks like their fathers and are working their way up into management positions.
Putting service first
While Dealers Supply offers a wide range of steep and low-slope roofing and waterproofing products, the company stands out more for its services. “Our market is typically professional roofing and waterproofing contractors,” says Francis. “We operate from a single 10-acre location in Portland with 42 employees and 16 trucks for deliveries.”
As far as inventory goes, Francis strives to keep pace with the demands of his market. “We are able to retain our customers through a high inventory level,” he explains. “We very rarely run out of anything. We have quality inventory at a reasonable price and we provide excellent service. About 95 percent of our customers rely on us for delivery as well.”
Francis and his colleagues have been busy with commercial low slope, and flat-roof projects. In Portland, this includes just about every building downtown. Dealers Supply’s in-house Tapered Design Center offers increased value for contractors. “We work off plans, using AutoCAD to build a custom system for a specific building,” explains Francis. “Our Tapered Design Center gets involved with architects and contractors in the early stages.”
“While it is most economical for a contractor or builder to build a roof flat, you need a system to get water to flow to the drain,” he continues. “The guys in our Tapered Design Center say they get paid to get water to flow downhill. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. On an existing flat roof, the architectural drawings show where the drains are. We design the rises and valleys that run to the drains. Sometimes it is simple, but more often than not, the process can get complex. We typically have to work around rooftop mechanical units and sometimes you get a building in a weird shape, like a horseshoe.”
While Francis and his team continue to manage a large, up-to-date inventory, the company is also working to provide services that set the business apart from competitors. “We recently added a shingle recycling depot at our facility,” he explains. “When a contractor removes the shingles, traditionally they’ve just gone to the landfill. We’ve partnered with a customer/ friend of ours who operates Northwest Shingle Recyclers and he has three of these centers in Portland.”
The operator of this unique service approached Francis when he was building a new facility and noted that the location would be ideal for a new recycling center. “I thought it would be a good idea and it would bring more people in who don’t necessarily buy from us yet,” Francis explains. “A crew would go out, tear off shingles from a house, which ended up in a dump trailer. Our theory is if we can get them to come here to dump debris at a less expensive rate and in a manner that is more ecofriendly than the local landfill, it could drive business to our location. They’ll be here for recycling and we can sell for their next job. We can put plywood, underlayment and other products right in the dump trailer for the next job and then deliver shingles when they are ready for them.”
With the new recycling center, Francis and his team are looking ahead to new opportunities over the coming years including rooftop solar and vegetative roof systems. “Right now we are just getting used to our new facility” he notes. “Our plan is to push forward and keep up with the everyday challenges while doing a job well done for our customers.”
Dealers Supply Company will continue to maintain a strong focus on service while providing quality roofing and waterproofing products for a wide range of contractors throughout northwest Oregon, southwest Washington and beyond.
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