Right location, right workforce propels Everlast Roofing to steady sales performance
By Wayne E. Rivet
When Lee Eastman considered opening a metal roofing company in Bridgton nearly 15 years ago, he was very comfortable with his decision.
He liked the location.
He saw potential of a former mill site that had been devastated by a fire.
And, he knew he had a reliable, skilled workforce at his disposal.
The end result — Everlast Roofing has enjoyed 15 to 20% growth every year over the past four years.
In summer 2016, the company built a 60-by-140 ft. storage building to keep up with demands, and could be expanding the facility in 2017.
“We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” said Eastman, who is general manager of Everlast Roofing’s Northeast operation. “Our company, as a whole when I started Everlast in 1998, we had five employees in the whole company. Now, we have 174 with four plants — Lebanon, Pa., Howe, Ind., Bridgton and Orwell, Ohio — in the United States,” Eastman said. “When we first started, we were lucky to ship a couple of tons out of here (Bridgton). At the end of this year (2016), we’ll have shipped close to 2,000 tons.”
Everlast Roofing is tucked away off South High Street, adjacent to the Congregational Church. One only sees a long roadway and a sign.
“No one sees us. People come up here looking for a job and think they’ll find this tiny little spot. Then, they say, ‘I didn’t know what you did here.’ When I had a Chamber open house a couple three years ago, people told me they had no idea what this place was,” Eastman said. “It’s growing.”
Locally, Everlast Roofing employees 35 on site — 26 to 27 make up the manufacturing workforce, while the remaining workers are truck drivers, outside sales and office staff. Production has been so good that another trim machine was scheduled to be added in late 2016, which will double Everlast’s capacity to make trim.
Everlast Roofing has taken off since early 2000 when Eastman had “an idea” that has jumped off the drawing board.
“Back in 2002–2003, I was working for Everlast Roofing as a salesman and came up with an idea. We had come out with an Everseam panel, which was hard to ship from Pennsylvania, so I said why don’t I start a company to manufacture the panel in Maine,” he recalled.
So, a new company was formed — Metal Roofing Solutions with Eastman as president.
“We made product for Everlast Roofing. They would pick it up on trucks coming through and deliver it to customers,” he said. “It went really well for the first eight to nine months, so much so that Everlast came to me and said why don’t we just buy Metal Roofing Solutions and make it all one company — under one umbrella.”
Everlast bought out Metal Roofing Solutions, and made Eastman an Everlast stockholder.
Success has been realized because of two major factors — metal roofing’s popularity has soared, and it’s quality is the result of a strong, skilled, reliable workforce.
Eastman said the evolution of metal roofing has been tremendous over the past 10 years. Initially, metal roofing was primarily used to cover barns. Today, many homeowners are forsaking traditional asphalt shingles in favor of metal. Why? Metal now comes in 15 different colors (all painting is done at a West Virginia plant), comes with a 40-year warranty and is more comparative in price with its chief rival, shingles.
“When it arrives here, it is all painted. Coils are 10,000 pounds. Sales go through lumberyards. There was a time we sold direct to the public, but no longer. We wrinkle it (the metal) into a shape and send it off to our customers,” Eastman said. “The beauty is it is convenient, you don’t have to worry about it once it is on — I like to say, ‘once and done.’ Shingles last 15 to 20 years, then you have to tear them off and disposal can be expensive. Metal is recyclable — 27% of the product we sell is recycled into our stream. Prices are meeting now. We’re competitive with the shingle market price wise, and people have a choice of what they want. Everybody is feeling better about metal roofing.”
While the housing market is a primary target of Everlast Roofing, Eastman has also branched off to cultivate other sources of work.
“This branch (Bridgton) gets involved with state salt sheds. We make the product on site, and curve it to what the state wants. It’s an avenue of business I’ve developed over time,” he said. “We’ve recently picked up jobs in Houlton and South Portland, and there are a couple more coming down the pike.”
Be it residential, commercial or municipal, Everlast Roofing’s calling card is that it produces a quality product made by Maine people.
“I always tell people, and I truly mean it, nothing would have happened here if it wasn’t for the workforce here. You can have the best equipment in the world and spend all the money in the world, but if you can’t get people to do what you need done, and make them and the customer happy, it’s not going to happen,” Eastman said. “When you grow at the rate we were growing at, that’s the biggest challenge — finding quality people.”
Two and a half years ago, Eastman went to Bonney Staffing Center and started a partnership.
“They brought people in and I tried them out (working about 500 hours). If we really liked them, we made them an employee of Everlast Roofing. Last year and the year prior, which were the most important years for us, we had a number of people who were displaced, went to Bonney and they came to us. Probably of the 27 people here, eight were from the Bonney group who are now Everlast employees. That really made the difference for us,” Eastman said.
Now, Eastman is also seeing people seeking employment at Everlast Roofing from other companies.
“They’re unhappy and want a change. Fortunately, we have a reputation that we treat people right and they want to work here,” Eastman said. “When unemployment is under 5%, it is typically difficult to find good employees that are going to last. We made the right moves and are fortunate for the people who have stuck. The work pool here in Bridgton has been really good. We’re really fortunate.”
When the shoe shop and knitting mill closed its doors, high-paying jobs with benefits were lost. Everlast Roofing has brought back higher-paying manufacturing jobs.
“For us to be here, it’s a good fill in. We’re gathering people who probably were from that era, who have been doing all kinds of other jobs since those places closed. What’s nice about our company is that we don’t pay minimum wage. We have higher-paying jobs with good benefits. So, people enjoy the fact they get a good solid paycheck,” Eastman said.
Presently, Everlast Roofing runs two shifts, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and 3 to 11 p.m.
“I have the two shifts overlap so they can join forces and get on the same page of where the other guys were,” he said. “We load at night — five truck drivers, two tractor trailers, as well. There are a lot of moving parts, which people don’t see.”
Little noise can be heard from South High Street, but there is plenty of work happening at the roofing plant — few people realize is even there.