FEATURE: ANNIVERSARY SERIES
by Leslie Shaver
In 1973 Federal Copper and Aluminum salesmen Percy Greenberg and Norman Goldetsky decided to start a business that would specialize in the distribution of plumbing supplies, such as copper tubing and copper sheet products. The two men opened their fledgling company in a small building in St. Louis Park, MN, and named it, appropriately enough, Copper Sales.
Twenty-five years later they still run Copper Sales, but that might be all you recognize of the original company. As a matter of fact, the company does not even sell copper tubing anymore. Instead, it manufactures metal wall panel systems, roofing systems and accessories, specializing in plate and honeycomb panels, column covers and equipment screens. Through the work of the management staff of Mike Wallace, Jack Rogers, Doug Epstein and Barry Taran, Copper Sales now has more than 180 employees and is based in a new 200,000-square-foot facility in Anoka, MN.
The evolution that made Copper Sales the manufacturer and distributor it is today began in the late 1970s. At that time, the company management began to see PVC pipe cornering the market in plumbing supplies, leaving a very small copper tubing market.
In response to this movement, they shifted the focus of the company to the emerging industry of architectural metals and the roofing market, which opened up a number of new avenues for them. "Percy Greenberg wanted to grow the business in a major way and was looking for a different direction to go in. He decided on the construction market and they began to focus on distribution to the roofing market," says executive vice president Wallace, who arrived about a year and a half before the initial plunge into architectural metals.
It soon became apparent that they intended to do more with their young company than just provide supplies to the roofing market. The company brought Wallace on board to help it move into the glass industry. "The glass industry was a natural fit for the construction market. So he [Greenberg] took the risk to step into that arena and he brought me on board to help in those efforts. As such, we initially started with distribution and then I had a game plan to get into manufacturing, starting with brake metal, column covers and eventually vertical wall panels," Wallace says.
Though the move into manufacturing can be difficult, draining resources and energy, Copper Sales made the leap relatively easily by following a solid business plan. "It was a major jump, stepping into the manufacturing arena, so we took our time," Wallace says. "We laid out a good business plan, accepted the risks and went for it."
The company not only had to invest in machinery but it also faced the difficult task of finding skilled workers. However, the timely purchase of a nearby manufacturing facility eased this burden as it not only provided Copper Sales with skilled workers, but also gave it access to affordable equipment. "Finding the craftsman and artisans, the key people, is very hard," Wallace says. "However, a local company, which had some people and equipment we could use, closed and that helped us start quicker."
Once running smoothly, the company began to gradually make the upgrades in both equipment and facilities that would help it reach more ambitious goals. "We started small and grew into some of the highly automated equipment we have today," Wallace says. "We have invested a phenomenal amount into state-of-the-art equipment to give the best possible product to the end-user."
Growth has also increased the amount of space Copper Sales has needed to effectively run a manufacturing operation. In 1987, the company moved out of its 25,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and into a 100,000-square-foot facility. Eight years later, the company moved into the facility it currently occupies.
While the company is pleased with its growth during its first quarter-century, Wallace admits that the amount of change and corresponding challenges can occasionally make it difficult to keep up. "There have been some challenges because of growing so fast, trying to keep up with that runaway locomotive," he says. "But its been a fun ride."
Leslie Shaver is assistant editor of USGlass magazine.
SIDEBAR: ON THE COVER
When a 21,000-square-foot office space was added to Centeons pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Bradley, IL, architect Laura Young, AIA, wanted to integrate the new section with the existing structure, while imparting a smooth, contemporary appearance befitting the companys image. The solution she designed involved cladding both the new addition and front elevation of the existing building with Alucobond Material from St. Louis, MO-based Alusuisse Composites, Inc. (see cover).
Young, vice president of Griskelis + Smith Architects, Ltd, in Chicago, IL, explained, "We wanted an exterior envelope that would appear sleek, modern and clean to suit the image of a pharmaceutical facility."
MTH Industries of Chicago, IL installed the metal panels. "The nice thing about the Alucobond product is that it fabricates easily. With a few small hand tools youre able to accommodate the occasional unforeseen field condition, on-site, with minimal effort," said Mike Swanberg, vice president of MTH.
Aesthetics, design flexibility and durability were factors when architect Renato Severino selected Alucobond for cladding another project, 287 Corporate Plaza, a 133,000-square-foot office building in White Plains, NY.
Severino, of Greenwich, CT, had used the material in previous projects when he chose 6 mm Alucobond in an alabaster finish for the exterior curtainwall of the building. "Alucobond, with its high degree of design flexibility, affords the best performance results within the economical limits of comparable facade systems," he noted.
© Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.