It generates $5 million annually but in the last six months Wayne Dennis and his partner Vaughan Berry decided 47 years in the roofing business was enough. Dennis and his brother in law partner have been at the controls of one of Sarnia’s leading roofing companies since 1971.
They took over Imperial Roofing (Sarnia) Ltd. From Wayne’s father Graham and his partner Ray Atkin. The pair started the company in 1947.
“ I love this business and I love our dedicated staff but at my age you wake up one morning and realize you can’t do this forever,” says Dennis. And after putting feelers out through the Ontario Industrial Roofing Contractors Association Tom Buhlman showed up to buy what Dennis described as a “very solid “company.
Buhlman, originally from Windsor had been in the roofing business in Toronto when he found out about Imperial. “We went from Windsor to Toronto because my wife was originally from Oakville but after eight years I had had enough. I was tired of the traffic and the congestion and spending one to two hours getting home every night”.
Buhlman, who is 53 describes Imperial as his retirement saying “I’m looking ahead 12 to 15 years”.
The company’s 35 employees have signed employment contracts with Buhlman who describes them as the backbone of the business. Most have been with Imperial 15 to 20 years.
“The message I want to deliver is that it will be business as usual. Why mess with a company that has been around for 70 years and built its reputation on quality and service?”
Dennis, who is 68, had conversations with employees about a possible buyout before completing the deal with Buhlman. “Our employees have the energy, the enthusiasm to it wasn’t financially feasible.… we wanted out”.
Both he and Berry will stay on for two years to complete the transition.
Buhlman says he was impressed when he first saw Imperial. “I was impressed with the longevity and how the owners treated the employees like family. And my message to them and the community is nothing is going to change”.
He added, “When the wheel isn’t broken why fix it?”
Dennis says he and Berry are proud of their accomplishments. “We’ve had our ups and downs over the years but we always pushed through working 60 to 70 hours a week and continuing the successful legacy of my father and his partner”.
He says he is also proud of the company’s safety record. “We have the same procedures and the same certifications for every job. Our objective was to do business safely, make some money and have everyone go home to their families every night”.