A Company Built on Family
Business View North America interviews Gary Yoder of Stoll Industries for our focus on the U.S. Manufacturing and Outdoor Living Sector
When William Stoll first welded a fire screen to help protect his home from sparks coming off his fireplace, little did he know that one day that idea would grow into a wildly successful business. Eventually that fire screen evolved into Stoll Industries, a company that supplies outstanding hand-crafted metal products to customers throughout North America.
It all started back in 1969 in Abbeville, South Carolina, where Stoll had bought a farm for his family, while working as a metal fabricator. After custom-making a fire screen to fit an unusual sized opening in his own fireplace, he was soon asked to replicate the product for friends. Before long he was making the fire screen for a local hardware store and Stoll Industries was born.
More than five decades later the company is still making metal screens but has vastly expanded its fireplace product base to include fireplace doors, mantels, screens, surrounds, accessories, and buildout kits. The company’s professionals also make a full range of other products such as metal cabinets and doors, kitchen countertops, and backsplashes, walls and shelves, and outdoor kitchen accessories. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, as Stoll Industries remains headquartered in Abbeville at the original site where William started, and is now run by a third generation of Stoll family members.
The headquarters has now expanded into a 100,000 square-foot, modern manufacturing facility – shipping directly to more than 1,700 dealers across the U.S. and Canada. Stoll Industries is the result of an American Dream that continues to be driven by hard work, great products, and unmatched customer service. Third-generation member of the family leadership team, Gary Yoder (William’s grandson), explains, “Everything is custom made-to-order with countless one-off designs. Many of our products are built around themes like a blacksmith door, or an outdoor kitchen, and come in various patterns. We’re always looking to build new products that might be needed.”
One of the most unique facts about Stoll Industries is that all products are ‘Handcrafted in Abbeville, SC’. According to Yoder, “Our products are touched multiple times by our team members. There are no robots and little to no automation on the plant floor.” However, the company has still invested in modern-day machinery such as lasers, press breaks for formulating and fabricating, stroke sanders, and more. By investing in this technology, manufactured products are made of the highest quality, with trained staff still responsible for what gets shipped to dealers. Employees use this machinery while utilizing their own design and operational knowledge to ensure that Stoll Industries remains an industry leader with custom-built, competitively priced products.
The team workforce is the heartbeat of Stoll Industries and we are more like a family than a factory, with little turnover experienced year over year. The company has built a solid reputation for promoting from within. “We have hardly ever had to advertise for jobs, and we have been blessed by God to bring great people to us,” Yoder says. “It’s a strong workforce and while we add a few new people most years, a lot of them have been with us for many years.”
Stoll Industries creates products that accessorize a fireplace, kitchen, or comfortable living space. Products like a screen, tool set, and decorative front are made from a wide variety of metals, including aluminum, stainless steel, copper brass, and hot and cold roll steel. The company has designers in-house that can quickly create a drawing or 3D rendering that bring to life a customer’s custom product idea.
While some companies in the industry have had supply chain issues since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, that has not been much of an issue for Stoll Industries. Yoder reports, “We have not had any delays to speak of because of materials shortages. Because we have such great and talented employees and wonderful relationships with our suppliers, we have stayed ahead of the curve.” He indicated that raw steel is the biggest material need and that, outside of a couple very brief delays with wire mesh, the company’s needs have been met. Having its material suppliers located in the U.S. and Canada has also helped.
The relationships that Stoll Industries has with its vendors goes a long way in making sure the shortages are not an issue. One such relationship is with Glass Unlimited in High Point, North Carolina. Stoll Industries has worked with multiple glass vendors over the years, but this industry-leading glass manufacturer and supplier has made a strong overall impression based on its emphasis on delivery processes and getting materials to Stoll on time. As Yoder attests, “They make sure we get our shipments each week on time when needed. There is a tremendous amount of value in having strong vendor and dealer relationships.” He adds that the company often schedules dealer visits and training events that include company meals and chartered fishing trips and other recreational activities that help build deeper relationships. “We have even been invited to weddings and other family events that our dealers or vendors have hosted.”
When the pandemic started and Stoll’s business slowed for a short period of time, leadership decided to hire a lean consultant to provide feedback on how the plant could become more efficient. Over time, the entire plant and company processes were updated and laid out in a new way to include reimagined assembly line that included a new layout for the manufacturing area. One of the immediate benefits was the efficient transformation of the company’s batches and orders processes.
Another outcome was the institution of a four-day, 10-hour work week for all staff, including plant professionals. The feedback has been positive and has further strengthened the positive work environment that is part of the Stoll Industries brand. “It’s helped us increase capacity and saved on machine, utility, and other fixed costs as well,” Yoder says. “It has also allowed us more time to focus on quality and accuracy.”
This adaptability will help as Stoll Industries investigates acquisition opportunities to fuel future growth. Yoder says businesses that have well-respected grill or furniture lines might be ideal for supplementing what the company already does well. One or more strategic acquisitions can further support Stoll’s increased revenue that can be used to invest in new technologies, additional labor, and marketing campaigns. “The idea of acquiring other companies is part of our strategic plan,” Yoder notes. “We’re confident we can find partners that work well with a family-owned business.”
Many Americans have thrived financially during the pandemic with stimulus money, less spending, and stay-at-home work, and they have often invested that money back into the homes. Even before the pandemic, metal products were becoming increasingly popular with consumers. This trend fits right into Stoll Industries’ product line. Decorative backsplashes, floating shelves, outdoor fire tables, and anything related to outdoor rooms and outdoor kitchens are extremely popular and are within the company’s sweet spot. These and other factors are expected to help the company grow its revenue consistently for the next 10-15 years.
It is the perfect situation for the Stoll family business. “There is a lot of money being put into metal products to decorate or improve the functionality of the home, We’ve been known in the fireplace sector since the company was founded, but we’re a new name in the kitchen and bath space, which can become a much larger category for us.”
Yoder can only smile when he realizes how far Stoll Industries has come by being true to its core values: hire the best people, celebrate our faith in God and each other, treat your customers well, and always focus on making the best products in the industry. He shares, “It’s why we’re the premier supplier for metal fireplace products, doors, and accessories and why we can grow into so much more.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: Manufacturer of custom-made consumer products for fireplaces, kitchens, and outdoor living areas
Where: Headquarters in Abbeville, South Carolina
Glass Unlimited of High Point, Inc. – www.glass-unlimited.com
Glass Unlimited is a leader in fabrication and the decoration of flat glass in the United States. Since itsstart in the late 70’s GUI has stayed ahead of the curve, trying new decorative applications. In the mid 80’s they found their niche when they were able to perfect v-grooving on 1/8” glass, something that no one else in the industry was able to do at the time. GUI became an industry leader for v-grooving in the US and holds that position still today.
Serving various markets of the home improvement and hospitality industries they offer an array of decorative applications. Whether silkscreen printing a “Pantry” design using etch ceramic frit enamel, v-grooving an intricate pattern or producing a beautiful stained glass piece GUI strives for nothing short of perfection for their customers.
What makes Glass Unlimited unique is that they produce all of their own artwork and build their silkscreens in house. If a customer has a design of their own GUI’s in house designer gladly helps make their concept a reality on glass.
Most importantly Glass Unlimited’s products are proudly made and distributed in the United States at the highest level of quality.