2016-11-09

Roofing company aims at new heights

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Walls Metal Roofing&#8217;s new 45 by 130 foot building on Highway 325 in Blockhouse will contain storage and manufacturing space as well as a showroom and retail area.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Johnny Wall, owner of Walls Metal Roofing, is expanding the company to include manufacturing as well as installation.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Johnny Wall, owner of Walls Metal Roofing, is expanding the company to include his new line of wheel loaders under the brand name Wallverine.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Johnny Wall, owner of Walls Metal Roofing, is expanding the company to include his new line of wheel loaders under the brand name Wallverine.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Johnny Wall, owner of Walls Metal Roofing, is expanding the company to include manufacturing and retail as well as installation.</p>

It's not often a rural company can say business is going through the roof, but in the case of Johnny Wall's enterprise it is.

The company he and his uncle David Wall started four years ago with "a borrowed truck, a nail bag and a few hand tools" continues to reach new heights. Last year, Walls Metal Roofing's team of 10 crew members oversaw the installation of 120 new roofs, and this year they've done 200 more.

Wall says the company has grown rapidly. "A lot faster than I had expected."

The Bridgewater resident has been building his career in construction since he was a youth. On the company website, Wall describes how he built his first tree house when he was eight, and later built two black spruce log cabins when he was a teen.

"The last thing my younger brothers and I would think to do was play video games and watch TV; we were out there wasting dad's nails, and destroying lumber building something."

After buying out his uncle last December, and with his company now expanding to include new lines of business, he appears set to continue building success for some time.

"For me, it's all about doing a job once and nobody coming back to do it again in a few years. That's why I decided to just go exclusively with a permanent roof solution," he said in a recent interview.

He set up Walls Metal Roofing in an office in his Bridgewater home, and soon clients were falling in line, mostly from within a roughly 30-minute radius.

"They're just people that are sick and tired of the asphalt shingles and roofs that don't last," said Wall. "We're able to install a roof that lasts a lifetime many ways, with prices that are close to an asphalt quote. For permanent roofs with a price similar to that of a roof that will last 14 years, it's a no-brainer, right?"

Wall uses four teams on a contract basis. "I did have employees last year, but we switched over since. There's a lot of stuff that goes with employees."

Like himself, most of Wall's crew members are Mennonite, and he says customers have commented on their honesty and strong work ethic.

"The only guys I hire are people who have some experience with construction work, framing houses, renovations and so forth," he said, adding that a lot of his crew grew up working with their fathers. "They're very efficient, very fast, very handy. They've been around the block."

In an effort to get around the higher taxes associated with running a business in town, Wall began exploring options in the rural municipality. In the fall of 2014, he settled on a property on Highway 325 in Blockhouse. Construction is now under way on a 45 by 130 foot commercial building that will include space for storage and manufacturing, as well as a retail area and showroom.

He's hoping to manufacture metal roof panels and trims in the back of the building. In the front showroom customers can examine the product and see how the company handles skylights, chimneys and other roofing issues. In the retail area, roof products such as screws, foams, rubber boots, lashings and general metal roof packages will be for sale.

Meanwhile, Wall's need for a wheel loader has led to the creation of another line of business. He says he couldn't afford to spend "a hundred grand" on a John Deere or other well-known North American brands, so he searched online and ordered a custom-made machine with a Cummins diesel engine from China.

He thought there must be others who are in a similar situation, so he's now selling the units under his own brand name, Wallverine.

He struck a similar deal with another Chinese manufacturer, whereby it will produce the parts for aluminum trailers that Wall can then import, assemble and sell in Blockhouse. According to Wall, the wheel loaders are retailing between $20,000 and $35,000, while the trailers will run from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the size.

For now anyway, he has no intention of letting the business impede him from spending his winters in the Central American country of Belize, where he and his wife go for four months of the year.

"We have quite a few guys that stay here and they've been with me for years. They know the operation almost as well as I do. So that part isn't going to be an issue," said Wall.

But he's not just soaking up the sun on the beach when he's there. Wall helps out with the Lighthouse Caribbean Christian Radio Ministry and recharges on the business front.

With the rest of the year so busy, he says, "The winter time is something different and allows me to think and to strategize."

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