The Stars Align as Waukegan Roofing Celebrates 100 Years in Business

Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., Waukegan, Ill., is celebrating 100 years in business in 2014.

Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., Waukegan, Ill., is celebrating 100 years in business in 2014.

The universe seems to be telling Bruce Diederich he is following the right path. Diederich is president of Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., located in Waukegan, Ill., a suburb 32-miles north of Chicago. As the roofing-contracting firm enters its 100th year in business, it’s difficult to ignore the coincidences Diederich, who has owned the company for 16 years, has uncovered while researching Waukegan Roofing’s long history.

One hundred years ago, M.C. DeThorne established Waukegan Roofing on Philippa Avenue in Waukegan. Although Waukegan Roofing no longer is located on Philippa Avenue, Diederich is grooming his son Philip to someday take over the business. Strange? It gets better: DeThorne included his company’s telephone number—1625—on advertisements discovered by a local historian. Today, Waukegan Roofing’s phone number is (847) 623-1625.

An early location of Waukegan Roofing.

An early location of Waukegan Roofing.

If that isn’t enough, it seems as though Diederich was always meant to own a roofing business. His father owned a shingles-only roofing-contracting firm for 32 years. While he was growing up, Diederich worked for the company but opted to sell roofing materials instead and went to work for Bradco Supply, now Beloit, Wis.-based ABC Supply Co. Inc. Diederich happened to sell materials to Waukegan Roofing, which at that time was owned by Ed and Dave Hiner. The Hiners’ father had bought Waukegan Roofing from the DeThorne family in 1951. When Ed Hiner mentioned in 1998 they were planning to retire, Diederich pulled $5 out of his pocket and jokingly told Ed not to sell before he could speak to his youngest brother who was interested in returning to roofing. The next day Dave Hiner invited Diederich for coffee.

“We were parked next to each other and Dave opened his trunk and said, ‘Ed and I want you to buy our company. Here are the last 10 years of financials,’” Diederich recalls. “I put them in my car and called my wife, telling her she’d never believe what just occurred. She thought they were really serious and urged me to call our attorney and accountant. Thirty days later, I owned Waukegan Roofing.”

Owner Bruce Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success.

Owner Bruce Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success.

The Hiners had followed DeThorne’s lead and focused their business on low-slope commercial and industrial roofs. Diederich realized he could offer his shingle heritage to the business. “I looked around and there were all these retail centers being built and they all had a shingle-mansard roof of some form,” he says. “I approached Waukegan Roofing’s top-five contracts and asked what they thought about me starting a shingle division. Every one of them said it would be a great idea because they could come to Waukegan Roofing for everything, not just the flat part of the roof.”

Waukegan Roofing’s shingle division has been very successful since Diederich established it in 1998. Today, the firm constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal. In addition, in 2007, Diederich started a commercial service and maintenance division, which kept Waukegan Roofing busy through the economic downturn and benefitted the company’s growth overall.

Waukegan Roofing constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal, as well as operates a commercial service and maintenance division.

Waukegan Roofing constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal, as well as operates a commercial service and maintenance division.

Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success. “We stick by them through thick and thin,” he says. “We just believe in the people who work for the firm and in the quality of the product we put out. Our motto is ‘Installing roofs you can rely on’, and we believe in that wholeheartedly.”

All the clues that Diederich’s chosen profession was meant to be are there, and he agrees his life has come full circle—from working in his dad’s roofing business to helming a successful roofing contracting company of his own into its 100th year. “People ask me whether I regret buying a roofing company and I say, ‘Yeah, I wish I would’ve done it 10 years earlier’,” he chuckles.

INVOLVEMENT

Bruce Diederich is immediate past president of the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association. He also is an active member of the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association and National Roofing Contractors Association.

About Christina A. Koch

Christina A. Koch is editor in chief of Roofing.

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