Standing the Test of Time
For 105 years, W.L. Tucker Supply Company has set up customers for success
Coal was king in 1915 when Walter Tucker founded W.L. Tucker Coal in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The company, built on reliability and hands-on service, provided furnace coal to residential and commercial customers.
As market demands shifted and natural gas became more commonly used for heating homes and businesses, W.L. Tucker Coal could have been forced to close its doors. Instead, it evolved with the times, reinventing itself as W.L. Tucker Supply Company (Tucker Supply) and finding a new market. With the growth of the post-World War II housing market, Tucker Supply made a name for itself by offering masonry and building supplies for the construction industry.
Since then, the company has grown to be one of northeast Ohio’s largest and most diverse suppliers of masonry, concrete and specialty construction products and equipment. All the while, it has continued to stick to its values of providing reliable, hands-on service to its clients and maintaining a forward-thinking approach to business.
Set Up for Success
Tucker Supply’s roots as a family-owned business have continued through today. The company is currently led by Walter Tucker’s granddaughter, Martha Cailor, who took the helm from her parents in 1999.
Under Cailor’s leadership, Tucker Supply has continued its efforts to stay on the cutting edge of industry trends to serve architects, mason contractors, specialty contractors, restoration contractors, landscape designers and even individual DIY homeowners.
Ron Stroh, Vice President, explains, “We are always trying to find the newest products, technologies, tools and methods to help our customers. We want to keep them at the forefront of what’s happening in their field.”
For example, Stroh points out the current emphasis on thin and lightweight materials that cost less to make and install. Demand for more green and eco-friendly products is also increasing, along with the need for more masonry products that offer a high R-value, or better insulation.
“Our goal is to keep our customers competitive in whatever their trade is,” Stroh says. “We find the products they want to build with.” Tucker Supply not only specializes in finding the latest and greatest products, but also trains contractors and architects on getting the most out of the products. That means offering classes and bringing in vendors to facilitate training sessions.
“We want to put these products in their hands and give them experience and training so when the projects come around, they are already familiar with the products,” Stroh explains.
The key to this proactive approach is having individual employees who specialize in specific products and areas of construction—what Stroh refers to as “product champions.” For instance, one employee will be highly skilled in brick, while another will be familiar with particular tools and equipment. This allows the team members to know a product inside and out, which Stroh says is more effective than employees trying to know everything about every product.
All two dozen team members are also on hand to help the customer in whatever way needed. While the team includes designated salespeople, even the drivers who deliver materials to job sites are considered an extension of sales. This philosophy is part of providing the hands-on service that has been a core value of Tucker Supply since its early days as W.L. Tucker Coal.
Stroh explains, “If we deliver products, and a customer needs something placed in one or more places on the site, we’ll accommodate. Whatever it takes to make the material location more convenient for them. Everyone’s main goal is to make sure they’re serving the customer.”
This dedicated service starts at the beginning stages of a project. The Tucker Supply team works closely with architects, contractors and landscape designers through every step of the process—from early schematic design, through a project’s bid, to when products are ordered and shipped, and finally, until the project is completed and delivered. Sometimes it can be a yearslong process.
The goal through each step of the process is to ensure customers have the resources and support they need to create a great finished product. “We want our customers’ projects to be a success,” Stroh says.
Building the Future
One such successful project was the College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) at Kent State University. According to Stroh, this project was a true team effort between Tucker Supply and several different parties, including architecture firms WEISS/MANFREDI and Richard L. Bowen + Associates Inc., FOTI Contracting and The Belden Brick Company.
Like Tucker Supply, The Belden Brick Company—based in Canton, Ohio—has been around for more than 100 years. For this project, Tucker Supply worked with Belden Brick to provide the custom brick used to create the special shapes and intricate patterns for the building’s facade, resulting in a highly unique architectural design with both a familiar and a timeless feel.
“It’s a spectacular building,” Stroh says. The project garnered high praise when it was recognized in 2017 by the Brick Industry Association’s Brick in Architecture Awards for outstanding design in the educational category.
While the accolades are appreciated, the Tucker Supply team is proud of the work for more personal reasons. For a company that works hand in hand with architects, the Kent State University CAED project was a fitting and meaningful way to elevate the next generation of architects and designers by providing them with a beautiful new space in which to learn.
“The Kent State project means a lot to all of us,” Stroh says.
Giving back to the next generation of builders is also an important component of Tucker Supply’s community service efforts. The company donates materials to local trade schools for students to practice their skills. For the Tucker Supply team, these donations are another way to support the future of the industry.
Passing the Torch
Longevity is a characteristic of both the century-old business and its employees—many of whom have dedicated decades of service to the company.
“We’ve been fortunate to have long-tenured, dedicated people who have been part of the Tucker Supply family for many years,” Stroh says.
“Our latest two retirees had more than 40 and 50 years of service, respectively. It’s a place that people land and stay.”
While many of the current employees have been with Tucker Supply for 20 years or longer, Stroh also points out the importance of mentoring younger team members and up-and-coming leaders. After all, they will be the ones to ensure Tucker Supply remains around for the next 100 years.
“We have talented people that we are confident will continue to carry the torch well into the future,” he says.