The Stars Align as Waukegan Roofing Celebrates 100 Years in Business

Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., Waukegan, Ill., is celebrating 100 years in business in 2014.

Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., Waukegan, Ill., is celebrating 100 years in business in 2014.

The universe seems to be telling Bruce Diederich he is following the right path. Diederich is president of Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., located in Waukegan, Ill., a suburb 32-miles north of Chicago. As the roofing-contracting firm enters its 100th year in business, it’s difficult to ignore the coincidences Diederich, who has owned the company for 16 years, has uncovered while researching Waukegan Roofing’s long history.

One hundred years ago, M.C. DeThorne established Waukegan Roofing on Philippa Avenue in Waukegan. Although Waukegan Roofing no longer is located on Philippa Avenue, Diederich is grooming his son Philip to someday take over the business. Strange? It gets better: DeThorne included his company’s telephone number—1625—on advertisements discovered by a local historian. Today, Waukegan Roofing’s phone number is (847) 623-1625.

An early location of Waukegan Roofing.

An early location of Waukegan Roofing.

If that isn’t enough, it seems as though Diederich was always meant to own a roofing business. His father owned a shingles-only roofing-contracting firm for 32 years. While he was growing up, Diederich worked for the company but opted to sell roofing materials instead and went to work for Bradco Supply, now Beloit, Wis.-based ABC Supply Co. Inc. Diederich happened to sell materials to Waukegan Roofing, which at that time was owned by Ed and Dave Hiner. The Hiners’ father had bought Waukegan Roofing from the DeThorne family in 1951. When Ed Hiner mentioned in 1998 they were planning to retire, Diederich pulled $5 out of his pocket and jokingly told Ed not to sell before he could speak to his youngest brother who was interested in returning to roofing. The next day Dave Hiner invited Diederich for coffee.

“We were parked next to each other and Dave opened his trunk and said, ‘Ed and I want you to buy our company. Here are the last 10 years of financials,’” Diederich recalls. “I put them in my car and called my wife, telling her she’d never believe what just occurred. She thought they were really serious and urged me to call our attorney and accountant. Thirty days later, I owned Waukegan Roofing.”

Owner Bruce Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success.

Owner Bruce Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success.

The Hiners had followed DeThorne’s lead and focused their business on low-slope commercial and industrial roofs. Diederich realized he could offer his shingle heritage to the business. “I looked around and there were all these retail centers being built and they all had a shingle-mansard roof of some form,” he says. “I approached Waukegan Roofing’s top-five contracts and asked what they thought about me starting a shingle division. Every one of them said it would be a great idea because they could come to Waukegan Roofing for everything, not just the flat part of the roof.”

Waukegan Roofing’s shingle division has been very successful since Diederich established it in 1998. Today, the firm constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal. In addition, in 2007, Diederich started a commercial service and maintenance division, which kept Waukegan Roofing busy through the economic downturn and benefitted the company’s growth overall.

Waukegan Roofing constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal, as well as operates a commercial service and maintenance division.

Waukegan Roofing constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal, as well as operates a commercial service and maintenance division.

Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success. “We stick by them through thick and thin,” he says. “We just believe in the people who work for the firm and in the quality of the product we put out. Our motto is ‘Installing roofs you can rely on’, and we believe in that wholeheartedly.”

All the clues that Diederich’s chosen profession was meant to be are there, and he agrees his life has come full circle—from working in his dad’s roofing business to helming a successful roofing contracting company of his own into its 100th year. “People ask me whether I regret buying a roofing company and I say, ‘Yeah, I wish I would’ve done it 10 years earlier’,” he chuckles.

INVOLVEMENT

Bruce Diederich is immediate past president of the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association. He also is an active member of the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association and National Roofing Contractors Association.

Professional Roofing Contractors Donates a New Roof and So Much More

Matt Brinck (left) and Jonathan Price plan Professional Roofing Contractors’ Facebook roof giveaway with Dawn Holley of United Way of Bedford County. The giveaway would not only provide a free roof to a family in need, but also would contribute funds to United Way of Bedford County for every Facebook “like” on Professional Roofing Contractors’ page during the promotion.

Matt Brinck (left) and Jonathan Price plan Professional Roofing Contractors’ Facebook roof giveaway with Dawn Holley of United Way of Bedford County. The giveaway would not only provide a free roof to a family in need, but also would contribute funds to United Way of Bedford County for every Facebook “like” on Professional Roofing Contractors’ page during the promotion.

Everyone should have the charitable spirit of Jonathan Price, vice president of Professional Roofing Contractors, Shelbyville, Tenn. Price prides himself in giving back to the community he grew up in and that supports his business. His roofing contracting company, which was established in 1996 and has a 70 percent commercial focus, has donated roofs to charitable entities like Habitat for Humanity, and Price is a member of the local Rotary Club and United Way of Bedford County’s board of directors.

Shelbyville is not a large town—20,105 residents per the 2010 census—and Price, who manages the contracting company’s marketing, found Facebook easily facilitates conversation between Professional Roofing Contractors and the community. “I hear daily from people in the community who say it was awesome that we did this or that,” Price says. “They’re picking up our activities from Facebook.”

In 2013, Price decided to take the lead on a charitable roofing giveaway that he would run through Facebook. “We basically asked for a photo of the existing roof and a 100- to 200-word explanation about what was going on, why they needed a roof and why they should win,” Price recalls. He enlisted United Way of Bedford County to help with promoting the giveaway and offered the organization $5 for each Facebook “like” Professional Roofing Contractors received during the promotion.

John Morris (left), the local rep for Atlas Roofing, and Matt Brinck, residential sales for Professional Roofing Contractors, congratulate Jo Gentle, winner of Professional Roofing Contractors’ roof giveaway. Based on the success of the contest, Professional Roofing Contractors plans to make the roof giveaway an annual event.

John Morris (left), the local rep for Atlas Roofing, and Matt Brinck, residential sales for Professional Roofing Contractors, congratulate Jo Gentle, winner of Professional Roofing Contractors’ roof giveaway. Based on the success of the contest, Professional Roofing Contractors plans to make the roof giveaway an annual event.

“We were excited about the opportunity,” says Dawn Holley, United Way of Bedford County’s executive director. “Not only would there be a family that truly needed but couldn’t afford a new roof, but contributions from the ‘likes’ would come back to United Way to be divvied out among 20 agencies that provide valuable services throughout the area.”

In addition to promoting the giveaway on Facebook and their websites, Price and Holley recorded commercials for a local radio station; the station’s hosts also talked about the giveaway on air. Holley promoted the giveaway to United Way of Bedford County’s 20 partner agencies, and the local newspaper wrote several articles about the giveaway before and after the winner was chosen.

During the month-and-a-half-long promotion, Professional Roofing Contractors received 20 entries on its Facebook page. Price chose a panel of judges—Holley; Laurrie Batey, Professional Roofing Contractors’ accountant; and John Morris, the local Atlas Roofing rep—to narrow the entries to three finalists. “We kept narrowing them down; it was a challenge because we could see the need in every one of the entries,” Holley notes.

Dawn Holley, executive director of United Way of Bedford County, receives a check for $500 from Larry Price (middle), president, and Jonathan Price, vice president of Professional Roofing Contractors, Shelbyville, Tenn. The roofing contracting company donated $5 to United Way of Bedford County for each “like” added to its Facebook page while collecting entries for a charitable roof giveaway.

Dawn Holley, executive director of United Way of Bedford County, receives a check for $500 from Larry Price (middle), president, and Jonathan Price, vice president, of Professional Roofing Contractors. The roofing contracting company donated $5 to United Way of Bedford County for each “like” added to its Facebook page while collecting entries for a charitable roof giveaway.

“After the three finalists were chosen, we opened the contest up to a vote on Facebook,” Price says. “To vote, visitors had to ‘like’ our page. Then we counted up the votes.” The winner of the free roof—valued at $5,000 with materials donated by Atlas Roofing Corp., Atlanta, and labor provided by Professional Roofing Contractors—was Jo Gentle of Brownsboro, Ala. (The other two finalists also received prizes donated by the local Sears, United Grocery Outlet and Victory Nissan.)

Professional Roofing Contractors’ giveaway not only gave Gentle the roof her family’s home desperately needed, but it also provided $500 to United Way of Bedford County based on 100 likes added to the roofing contracting company’s Facebook page during the promotion. That money was distributed among United Way of Bedford County’s 20 partner agencies.

“When you have a small United Way like ours, partnerships like the one with Professional Roofing Contractors are vital,” Holley says. “When you give to United Way, those dollars are going to so many different organizations and touching so many lives. This promotion did so much more in our community beyond helping the family that received the roof. I just want to give a big thank you to Jonathan and Professional Roofing Contractors for including us in the promotion.”

Jo Gentle’s roof was about 20 years old and had many leaks, resulting in rotten decking. In her Facebook entry, Gentle uploaded a photo of a giant hole in her ceiling’s sheetrock, with which Professional Roofing Contractors’ Facebook followers obviously sympathized when they selected her the winner of a new roof.

Jo Gentle’s roof was about 20 years old and had many leaks, resulting in rotten decking. In her Facebook entry, Gentle uploaded a photo of a giant hole in her ceiling’s sheetrock, with which Professional Roofing Contractors’ Facebook followers obviously sympathized when they selected her the winner of a new roof.

Jo Gentle's new roof with materials donated by Atlas Roofing and labor donated by Professional Roofing Contractors.

Jo Gentle’s new roof with materials donated by Atlas Roofing and labor donated by Professional Roofing Contractors.

PHOTOS: Professional Roofing Contractors

Roof It Right’s Famous Roofing Dogs

Roofis was Roof It Right's original roofing dog.

Roofis was Roof It Right’s original roofing dog.

James Guindon and his husky, Roofis, moved to Las Vegas from Palm Springs, Calif., in 1994 for the construction boom. Guindon was accustomed to bringing Roofis—who actually climbed ladders to join crews on the roof—to work, but he met some resistance from Las Vegas roofing contractors when he sought a job. “Some companies wouldn’t hire me because of Roofis, saying there were insurance reasons or they can’t bring their kids to work so I should play with my dog at home,” Guindon remembers. “I finally was hired by a company that only cared that I showed up and was a good roofer, and some of their customers thought Roofis on a roof was the cutest thing they ever saw.” Those customers called the local media outlets and suddenly Roofis was famous.

In 1997, Guindon established Roof It Right, which has five human employees and focuses 70 percent of its efforts on residential projects. Naturally, Guindon made Roofis the star of the company. Roofing spoke with Guindon about Roofis (who passed away in 2006) and Roofis’ son, Bullet, who has taken over as Roof It Right’s resident roofing dog.

Roofing: How did Roofis and Bullet become comfortable with ladders and on roofs?

Guindon: Roofis would follow me around wherever I would go. When he was 4-months old, I went up on my house’s roof and he climbed up the ladder behind me.

Roof It Right's owner James Guindon, who is also an artist, includes his dogs in marketing materials, including this Christmas card.

Roof It Right’s owner James Guindon, who is also an artist, includes his dogs in marketing materials, like this Christmas card he illustrated.

I took Bullet to a job site when he was a puppy. We tried to get him to follow Roofis up the ladder but he wouldn’t do it. I kept bringing Bullet to job sites anyway. One day, I went up on a roof and I heard a dog coming up the ladder. I assumed it was Roofis but it was Bullet. Six months later, Roofis died. The day after Roofis died, Bullet filled Roofis’ “shoes”.

Roofing: How do you keep Bullet away from dangerous situations?

Guindon: I have been careful of what roofs I let him onto. If I think Bullet’s going to get hurt, I won’t let him up. We did a job on a 3-story building recently and Bullet was climbing up the 32-foot ladder to get to us. If the ladder is straight up and down, I won’t let him go up because he can fall backward.

Roofing: Do you use your dog(s) in your marketing materials?

Guindon: I’m an artist, so I created our logo with Roofis in it. The last three or four years, I’ve included Bullet on the custom Christmas cards I create and send to my clients. Both dogs are on the company website. My TV commercials include Bullet. My answering machine’s outgoing message starts out with ‘woof woof’. I’m having some fun with it.

Also, when people drive by and see a dog on the roof it’s definitely a headturner. They often stop and ask how the dog got up there. It blows their minds when they see him climb the ladder.

Bullet is Roof It Right's current roofing dog.

Bullet is Roof It Right’s current roofing dog.

Roofing: Do you get jobs specifically because of Bullet?

Guindon: I get calls from animal lovers. They don’t usually tell me they’re going to hire me right away because they’re afraid about how I might price the job. I’ve also been in business for 17 years, so I’m established around here, but I have to admit some of my business is probably because of the dogs.

Roofing: Do you plan to continue using dogs in your business?

Guindon: I got Roofis’ sperm frozen so when Bullet, who is 9 years old, goes to doggie heaven I’ll probably get one more roofing dog and after that I’m going to retire. Then I’ll have hunting dogs instead of roofing dogs.

View Bullet’s TV appearances on Roof It Right’s website.

IMAGES: Roof It Right