- Written by: Eikenhout Inc.
- Produced by: Eikenhout Inc.
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Eikenhout Inc. (Eikenhout) is one of the few independently held roofing suppliers left in Michigan, and most likely the oldest. “The business has always been closely held,” says Greg Schierbeek, president of Eikenhout, in regards to the company’s roots. The Eikenhout family founded the company in 1894. After World War II, the family sold the business to two of its most loyal employees, who hired Schierbeek’s father in the late 1950s. “I’ve been with the company since 1980,” says Schierbeek, who worked for a roofing manufacturer prior to joining up with the Eikenhout team.
The company has a long history in the region. “We’ve been here since the 1800s,” explains Schierbeek. “If you go down any street there’s a roof we’ve supplied.” While roofing supplies remain the staple of the business, Eikenhout has branched out since the early days.
“We got into the siding business as early as the ’40s or ’50s,” says Schierbeek. “In the early 1960s we were one of the first companies in the country to distribute vinyl siding. We supply windows, faux stone, fiber cement siding, fence, deck and rail; pretty much any kind of exterior building product.”
Supplies in Demand
Eikenhout has established longstanding relationships with many of its vendors, and Schierbeek says many of the products that were top sellers over a decade ago continue to dominate the business’ sales. “Our roofing lineup hasn’t changed much in the past decade,” he elaborates. “We’ve had our main window line for 15 or 16 years.”
That is not to say the business isn’t seeking out innovation. “In the exterior building products world, there hasn’t been tremendous deviation from the main stream,” says Schierbeek. “Asphalt shingle has been around since the 1910s or 1920s, and it probably still packs the most ‘bang’ for your buck.”
Eikenhout stocks and supplies alternative materials like metal, slate, tile and synthetics. “All of that is specialty material,” says Schierbeek. “We do business with several suppliers for all of that, but they are consumer demand driven.”
The company supplies regional clients, most of which are contractors in Michigan. Eikenhout services the entire state out of seven locations. “We don’t do installations and we don’t plan on it,” says Schierbeek. “That would put us in competition with our customers, and we’re not going down that road.”
Thinking Outside the Big Box
Schierbeek believes in the benefits of working with a locally held company in the building business, although he says there are challenges associated with it. “Some of the national distributors we compete with have 300 to 500 locations across the country,” he explains. “It’s like we’re the local grocery store and we’re up against Super Walmart. We offer more services, a personal touch, we know our customers, and we understand Michigan better, but at times the price is the only thing that matters. It’s hard to compete with the big-box mentality.”
Eikenhout has something the big-box stores don’t, however, and that’s a network of support. Eikenhout joined the Building Suppliers Corporation LLC (BSC) in 1999. “It’s a group of about 20 independent distributors like us,” says Schierbeek. “We meet a couple times a year; we have a director, staff and board of directors. Our focus is on educating employees and sharing best practices.” He says that, while there are financial benefits to joining the organization, BSC is not a buying group. “The organization really helped us stay on course and in business with what’s been happening in this industry over the last five or six years,” says Schierbeek.
Business is steady and Eikenhout is looking at secure, sustainable growth for the near future. “We’re not currently looking to open any new branches,” reveals Schierbeek. “But we’re definitely strengthening what we’ve got.” The company has brought on some new hires in the last year, and Schierbeek says the company’s staff has grown to over 100, up from 92 in 2011. “We’re growing organically where we already are,” he explains. “That means adding sales people and new facilities, new trucks and drivers, et cetera.”
The company’s success has left Eikenhout with the ability to give back to its communities. “As a locally owned company, we’re very aware of and very active in our community,” says Schierbeek. The management encourages all employees to participate in local organizations and fundraisers.
“In Grand Rapids, we’re currently sending teams of employees to the Ronald McDonald House about once a week to stock the pantry with treats for the guests,” says Schierbeek. In addition, in June 2012 the business raised funds for local Wedgewood Christian Services with a motorcycle and classic car rally. “Every year around the holidays the employees organize a food drive at each of our locations,” he adds.
Eikenhout embodies the true spirit of local American business, an attitude that keeps customers coming back. The company’s employees possess experience, skill and familiarity with local business so that clients walk away with more than just exterior building products. Eikenhout Inc. maintains an uncommon atmosphere of local integrity that attracts new and repeat customers all over the state, and will continue to do so for years to come.
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