Clearly the Exception
Eagle Window Distributing Company soars to meet customers’ wide-ranging needs
In 1982 in Rogers, Minnesota, a stone’s throw north of the Twin Cities, Scott Nelson seized an opportunity, his brother and dad joined in, and three Nelsons formed the charter staff of Eagle Window Distributing Company (Eagle Window), also known as Window Solutions. At the time the manufacturer was still a relatively new brand, but Scott was impressed enough to leave his job at Pella Corporation, a competitor door and window manufacturer, to represent it.
“The quality was high, and it had features like no other products on the market then,” says Scott, still President of the company he formed to distribute that early, career-shifting inventory. “The exteriors were extruded aluminum clad—available up to an eighth of an inch in thickness, and no one else was doing that. Most clad products then were about as sturdy as a pop can, just covering the wood, nothing to seal out the moisture or protect the exterior of the window,” he adds. “Hail or a rock would have dented it.”
The fact that most window products today are made of extruded aluminum is evidence that Eagle Window was way ahead of the game, Scott says, already leading in built-in longevity. As their company came together, Scott’s brother, Craig, resigned from his work selling garage doors to join, and his father, Bob, stepped down as the head of another residential garage door company. Scott shakes his head.
“I don’t know how it happened that we were all in related businesses,” he says. “All three of us were calling on contractors. We all knew the builders and how the construction industry works.”
And all three knew they had something. In those first months, the Nelson team stocked a short list of Eagle Window inventory of certain sizes and sold to builders specializing in new construction. No customization, just orders and setup. “We’d pull boxes off the shelf and assemble a window job on a fairly quick turnaround,” Scott recalls. “From order to shipping was two to three weeks.”
Eagle Window’s very first orders may have broken driveway-assembly speed records as the Nelsons hustled to build window jobs in Scott’s driveway. “Before we had a space to work, the first couple of jobs we did in front of my house,” Scott says and smiles. “The windows came together on a couple of sawhorses, and we shipped from there.”
A Recession Opens a Door
Through its first quarter century, Eagle Window served the Twin Cities and outlying suburbs in both the residential and large commercial construction sectors, installing products on only a limited basis for homeowners and contractors. Then the recession of 2007-2009 hit, Scott says, and the bottom fell out. By then Eagle Window had added the Andersen window and door product lines, but survival took more than a good product. “To stay in business, we had to adapt,” Scott recounts. So Eagle Window transitioned to full-time product installation, and its core business shifted to directly helping contractors do more of their work better. “No question our full-time installation capabilities got us through a tough time,” Scott says looking back.
But Eagle Window has never looked back. Today, for structures new or old, the opening doesn’t exist, Scott says—window or door—that his business can’t cover. Reason one is Eagle Window’s extensive inventory: 50 clad colors, for starters, for no more than the cost of white. Then there’s the company’s exceptionally wide range of exterior accessories.
Expertise in Home Remodels
Eagle Window’s message is simple: When you need to install—and if some part of your remodeling affects roofing, windows or siding—hand it to us. Measuring? Eagle Window professionals do it. Trim? They know the vendors and will show you your options. Details? Check. Or in Scott’s words, “We’re turnkey, the complete package, the whole program.”
Most residential contractors strain to do it all themselves, Scott explains—source the labor, determine the right product, see that it goes in correctly. “Anyone who’s tried to have a window program in the past is relieved to find out about us,” Scott says. “For a homeowner needing a window, we recommend the product that makes the most sense and take it from there.”
What does he mean by “take it from there?” “A contractor calls us. We explain the program, figure out what they’re looking for and what they need. We draw from the entire Andersen product line, which is no small thing, and this is where the contractor really benefits: We stick with one brand, and we know very well how to install it,” he explains.
Every installation, Scott adds, has challenges. In a replacement job, for instance, the challenge is to make a product from a different manufacturer look as if it’s always belonged there. No caulk lines on the outside, no paint lines on the inside, just a seamless look—natural and fresh. “It’s aesthetics,” Scott says. “It’s got to look like part of the original house.”
On older houses, the windows may be long out of stock, Scott says, or downright historical. And windows attach to other parts of houses in seemingly endless combinations of trim, exteriors and interiors. “You can’t just tear a window out. You don’t want to damage the siding or drywall,” Scott explains. “To install and replace, there’s a process and there are standards. A replacement is never just a plug-in.”
Why Eagle Soars
With the other two Nelsons retired now, Scott continues to lead Eagle Window’s focus on residential, commercial, historical and replication windows. Eighty percent of the company’s jobs, he says, is replacement work. “We sell 20% in new construction,” he adds, “but only in the upper end of single-family homes.”
Scott has a clear view of Eagle Window’s capabilities. “We’re as good as we are because we do windows and doors every day, and we’ve been at it for quite some time,” he says. “We’re unique because we are a distribution operation that also installs. We understand our products. And our installers are on our payroll, all trained by us, no subcontractors.” At that point Scott pauses. “Our installers are impressive,” he says with emphasis. “We get a fair amount of thank-you letters in the mail and a lot of positive comments. They do a really good job.”
Thirty-eight years ago, for three men in one family, Eagle Window was one big step. Today, across the Twin Cities and beyond, Eagle Window is a contractor’s giant leap forward. “In this market, everyone knows Andersen,” Scott adds. “For us and for our customers, this affiliation is a point of confidence because Andersen takes care of its customers. Whether it’s a product flaw or just something not quite right, they care, and fixing it is never a problem. Andersen takes our word that something’s not right and it’s turned into a very easy company to do business with.”
Scott pauses again. “There really is no opening we can’t fill, no job we can’t compete on,” he says. “Nothing is too unique for us to tackle.”