Case Studies

Rockwise LLC

A leading provider of drywall and stucco LLC throughout the Southwest

Founded in 2009, Rockwise LLC is a building material supplier serving trade contractors and retail customers throughout the Southwest with three locations across Arizona and Colorado. The independent, family-owned and -operated company specializes in drywall, stucco, acoustical ceilings, insulation and roofing.

Rockwise’s three locations each feature a retail store and warehouse space. The Dewey, Arizona location serves as Rockwise’s headquarters, while facilities in Phoenix, Arizona, and Durango, Colorado, allow the company to reach customers throughout Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

“We do everything from retail tool sales to building supply sales, but a majority of our product goes to trade contractors and professionals,” says Cory Pritchard, district manager at Rockwise. The company’s products are used across the building industry, from single-family residential projects to hotels, apartment complexes and specialty products for medical facilities.

The company sets itself apart from the competition with its specialized distribution service. While many building suppliers simply drop a shipment of materials on a job site in one bulk load, Rockwise distributes materials throughout the jobsite via a fleet of boom trucks, delivering supplies to the specific locations where they are needed.

“We have guys whose job is to meet with not only our customers, but the general contractors that our customers work for to insure proper delivery and placement,” says Pritchard. “In this day and age there is a lot more to it then just showing up and throwing products on a job; we deal with floor loads [weight ratings], placement, site access and such, which are important parts of what we do. We want the process to be as easy and efficient as possible not only for our customers, but also for our customers’ customers. We are not the only ones working on these facilities.”

“It’s a very intricate delivery system,” he adds. “Shipments aren’t just brought onto site as a lot. Our boom trucks, for example, can put drywall up seven floors.”

Finding success in tough times

Rockwise founder Tom Pritchard spent 20 years as a drywall contractor, mastering the installation process before transitioning into the drywall supply side of the business almost 12 years ago. Tom has worked for various supply yards and had owned a one-third stake in another drywall supply business, but broke with his partners and left shortly before starting Rockwise.

The company has grown into a true family affair, with Cory’s sister and uncle serving as the managers of the Phoenix and Dewey facilities respectively. Tom has cut back his involvement in the company operations as of late, allowing 29-year-old Cory to take the reins and manage the company’s 50 employees. “I’m fairly young, but I’ve been here since day one,” says Cory, who cut his teeth in the installation side of the business from the time he could walk. “So far it has worked well,” he continues. “Tom focuses on the big picture and relationships, I take care of the operations and the numbers, and we have the best employees in the industry backing us up and allowing us to provide the level of service we desire. The key to success is the people you have working for you and I am not afraid to brag that we have the best.”Rockwise LLC

Starting a construction-dependent business during the recession of the late 2000s could have turned out poorly for the Pritchards, but thanks to low overhead and competitors fleeing en masse, it was an unexpected boon to the young company.

“We’ve actually profited a lot from that over the years,” says Pritchard. “We bought a lot of assets from companies going out of business, whether it was large amounts of inventory or trucks that were 10 cents on the dollar. We were able to start from the bottom and build up. It was actually kind of perfect timing.”

Consolidation by private equity firms has swept the building supply trade in recent years, but Rockwise’s size has allowed the company to not only survive, but thrive in a changing market. “We’re one of the last family-owned companies, but we’re fairly large so we’re able to stay competitive,” says Pritchard. “The key is we care not only about Rockwise, but also about our customers and our manufacturers/vendors, which is something that is hard to find within our competition.”

But consolidation is not the only threat facing independent building material suppliers like Rockwise. Increased competition from Internet sales have taken their toll on the industry, but Rockwise has made a concerted effort to stay competitive with Web-based retailers. “That’s really helped up build a following in the industry, because customers know they can get a good price without having to order online and can walk out of the store with it that day,” Pritchard says.

Rockwise is a member of AD Building Materials, a buying group composed of independent distributors that band together to command better prices on goods. “That helps to give us the buying power of the big guys,” notes Pritchard. “There are 250-plus locations between the buying group, so we have the buying power of 250 locations instead of three; our involvement with AD has been an integral part to our success.”

In the last two years, Rockwise has added in-house tool repair to its repertoire of services in order to brand the company as a one-stop shop for professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike. “We saw a need for that and picked it up,” says Pritchard.

Relationships are everything in the construction industry. Rockwise prides itself on maintaining a reputation as a well-stocked building materials supplier, with over 3,000 SKUs on hand at any given time. “We’re really good at managing project deadlines and have a large enough inventory and delivery fleet — over 55 trucks, trailers and forklifts — to service our customers and make sure delivery is on time, clean and in the proper place,” he says.

The company works with various charities, including the Wounded Warriors project, a veteran’s service organization serving injured veterans. Rockwise recently donated stucco to the group to be used on a house being built for a wounded veteran in Arizona’s Prescott Valley.

Pritchard sees nothing but growth in Rockwise’s future. “I don’t think we’re going to slow down at all,” he says. “The first month we were open we sold about $90,000; now six years later we do $2.5 to 3.5 million a month and we’re already contemplating another facility.

While he is bullish on the industry in general, Pritchard is hoping for a period of moderate, sustainable growth. “We prefer when it’s just a slight increase every year,” he says. “If it starts to go through the roof, it’s got to reset itself sometime.”

As the housing market recovers and new construction projects continue to break ground, Rockwise LLC will remain a leader in stucco, drywall and other building materials throughout the Southwest.

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