All in the Family
Shelving, Inc. Pays Forward Its Success by Helping Others
In 1960, Jack Schodowski, a Detroit-based sales representative with a growing family decided to take his fate and fortune into his own hands and strike out on his own by founding Shelving, Inc., an Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company that now designs and installs storage solutions for the commercial, institutional and industrial markets.
Schodowski wanted to rely on himself and his own ingenuity to provide for his family, which before long would include seven children. In the mornings, he made sales calls, promoting the shelving systems that he would fabricate during the evening in his garage. To make his steel-slotted shelves, he would cut the steel to size, frame it, add the nuts and bolts and load the whole system into his van to have it ready for assembly installation at his client’s premises the following day.
At the time, Detroit’s automotive industry was booming and it soon became Schodowski’s primary client base. He focused on supplying the warehouse and storerooms with customized shelving systems. As the business grew, he expanded his workspace, hired a few people to work alongside him and had his children pitch in by sweeping the floors, scrubbing the toilets and washing the windows in the offices and workshop.
When Schodowski’s children graduated from school, he gave them the option of joining the business, starting from the ground up just as he had. If they wanted to work for the company, they would have to start in sales. He would give them a set of keys to a used Ford Escort, a roll of dimes and a carton of business cards. Then he would send them on the road to make cold calls in local industrial parks. They would makes calls to the office and to their customers using payphones located in nearby hotels and restaurants. With business cards and catalogs in hand, they would generate new business opportunities with customers that needed shelving and storage products for their facilities.
What he couldn’t have known when he started was 40 years later, three of his sons and his son-in-law would wish him and his wife, Helen, a happy retirement and take over operations.
Nor could he have known when he was working alone in his garage and late into the night that nearly 60 years later, his children would grow the company to serve clients in each of the 50 U.S. states and customers in Canada, Mexico and even Europe. They also dramatically increased the company’s product line and diversified the company’s customer base to include clients in food service, health care, pharmaceutical, law enforcement, higher education, manufacturing, retail and wholesale market segments.
Perhaps what might have been most surprising to him, however, would be his sons’ decisions to create two e-commerce websites, www.shelving.com and www.theshelvingstore.com, that would eventually double the company’s revenue.
One thing he might have known, however, was that they would view their success as an opportunity to give back to their community and that they would run the business as a family enterprise, caring for their employees in the same way they do each other—and just as he had done when they were growing up.
A Clear Objective
“We’re basically interior designers for warehouses,” explains Joe Schodowski, the youngest male of Jack Schodowski’s seven children and the President and CEO of Shelving, Inc. “We make the storage and warehouse spaces efficient, neat, organized and safe. Distribution and manufacturing facilities that have any type of backroom storage benefit by having their inventory stored neat, safe and secure. We make the best use of the available space, and our objective is our slogan: ‘We’ll rack your world,’ ” he says.
Joe and his brothers, Vice President of Sales Mike Schodowski and Vice President of Operations John Schodowski, and their brother-in-law, Vice President of Marketing Jim Aiello, have worked collaboratively to grow and expand the core business over the past 17 years. They have built their team up to 30 employees and added a turnkey system for designing, specifying, producing, selling and installing shelving systems and racking products.
“We look at all of the factors to maximize the available storage space and make the flow of material coming in and out of facilities efficient and synchronized,” Joe says. “We’re not the biggest at what we do, but we’re definitely one of the most referred.”
The business carries with it an impressive legacy; in its 58 years of operation, not a single shelf or rack has ever failed. And like the older Schodowski, the second-generation company leaders work around the clock. Their installation team is ready to be deployed at any time of day or night, any day of the week, and their large inventory of stock means that they are ready to ship their products without delay.
“We feel very fortunate,” says Mike, who leads the company’s charity initiatives.
“As kids, it was always ingrained in us to give back. To whom much has been given, much is expected.”
Each year, 10 percent of Shelving, Inc.’s profits go directly to a local charity called the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which offers meal programs, substance abuse programs, spiritual care programs, and a range of other services to help support those less fortunate in the community. The Capuchin Soup Kitchen provides 2,000 meals a day, through local donations and with no government help.
Shelving, Inc. covers the costs for two of this charity’s annual fundraising events. The company has supported Benefit On The Bay for the past 25 years, in that time raising over $1.4 million for the soup kitchen. In recent years, they have also picked up the costs for the Bocce with the Brothers event, with all proceeds going to the Capuchin Ministries. The Ministries provide tutoring for kids as well as support for people coming out of jail, and people struggling with homelessness and substance abuse. Shelving, Inc. also provides academic scholarships for children who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to pay for school.
The company encourages employees to take part in its philanthropic efforts by providing paid time for them to plant and cultivate food at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Earthworks Urban Farm or to wrap presents for children for the Friends of Foster Kids organization in time for Christmas.
Another way that Shelving, Inc. gives back to the local community is by recruiting new staff through Samaritas (formerly Lutheran Social Services of Michigan), which supports refugees who have newly arrived in the area from war-torn countries. One of their employees, Senad Selimovic, who came to Michigan as a refugee from Bosnia, couldn’t speak a word of English when he first started working with for them as an installer.
“We helped him get solidified in the United States and now he’s one of our shining stars,” Joe says.
When Selimovic’s father suddenly passed away back in Bosnia, the company paid for his flight home and covered his salary when he was away. To Joe and Mike, it only seemed natural to help him out in his time of need, as they would their family. “We feel very connected to the people who work for and represent the company,” Joe explains.
Some of the company’s employees have been with them for over 25 years, moving between roles as they grow, develop, evolve and take on more responsibility. “We want to put people in a position where they can utilize their talents and be successful in their work,” says Joe, who takes great pride in working directly with employees to better understand their skills, wishes and ambitions.
All of these good efforts—the family’s hard work, their commitment to giving back to the community and their approach to nurturing and investing in their staff—have paid off in the form of a growing business that continues to thrive. The brothers just hired two new employees and have bought a new building that they will expand into this coming spring. Through ingenuity and dedication, they have brought the company started in the family’s garage to one of national stature.