Tom Amoruso was going nowhere with his small construction company. He thought he was changing jobs to sell shelving, but he ultimately decided he could do better on his own. Today, Tom’s Shelving Concepts designs and manufactures American-made commercial steel shelving and is on course to grow 30 percent this year.
Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at The BusinessMakers.com. It's guest time on the show and I'm very pleased to have with me now Tom Amoruso, the Founder and CEO of Shelving Concepts. Tom, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
Tom: Well I'm glad to be here Russ.
Russ: Well great. Well tell us about Shelving Concepts.
Tom: We're a manufacturer of shelving. We manufacture industrial metal shelving known as Dixie Shelving. We also manufacture Dixie Wide Span, which is similar to Dixie Shelving, it's just a bulkier - you put bulkier items on it.
Tom: We manufacture Cantilever Racking, which you might see in lumber yards or at Home Depot when you're retrieving your lumber or your pipe.
Tom: And we also just started manufacturing pallet rack - tear drop pallet rack.
Russ: Okay, now all of these sort of sound like they're commercial shelving; they're not shelving I would buy for my garage or anything like that are they?
Tom: No, they're all commercial. We do sell some for garages but not often.
Russ: Okay, it's people that have real special garages probably.
Tom: There you go.
Russ: Okay, so these are - these are large shelving structures, right?
Tom: They are. They can go up to thirty, thirty-five feet tall and - but the majority of them are twelve to sixteen feet tall and then the beams might be eight foot long.
Russ: Okay, and designed to hold heavy weight items?
Tom: Exactly. We can make it all the way to ten thousand pounds a level down to a hand stack application that might require two thousand pounds.
Russ: Okay. So, uh, so the - the kind of places that we would see it, our audience would see it, is in a Home Depot maybe, maybe even a warehouse of some sort, okay.
Tom: Exactly. Um, warehouses is most commonly used. You do see them at Sam's, you'll see them at Home Depot, Lowe's, uh, that kind of applications.
Russ: Okay, now you - you say you used one called - one of them cantilever, is that right?
Russ: And so that's sort of means that, you know, it's not - there's not a lot of sidings on it, there's a heavy duty backbone and a - a shelf that kind of is somehow or another stable and holding it out, right?
Tom: It'll be an arm that comes out. You'll have a tower and then braced off in between them and it's designed to store long bulky items such as two by eights or two by sixes that might be twenty foot long, you know?
Russ: Okay, that's interesting. This is - this is serious shelving and you describe yourself as a manufacturer, eh?
Russ: That means that, uh, I don't suppose, are you manufacturing them in China?
Tom: No, no. We manufacture here in Houston, Texas and we get our stuff raw steel, bring it in. We bend it, we punch holes in it, we shape it and weld it and we run it through a powder coat line and out the door.
Russ: Wow, okay, well that's pretty interesting. I thought things like that were mostly made these days in China.
Tom: They are. A lot of it is and I have found in the last ten years that more and more is coming over here, however, a lot of it you have to be careful with. There's a lot of manufacturers in China that bring it over and a lot of dealers that sell it that aren't looking at the exact, oh, steel capacity. Their - their charts are a little bit different than ours and a lot of this - the product, the steel that they sell I don't even see - see on steel charts to be honest with you.
Russ: Oh, okay, all right, all right. So here you are, an American manufacturing, competing against sort of imported steel shelving and doing pretty good from what I understand.
Tom: Well, we try as hard as we can, we - great customer service and we get our orders out.
Russ: Okay. Now in that business, do you ever, you know, do ever get into a custom design for - for a customer or is everything standardized?
Tom: No, there's no standardized, uh, as far as the design goes, there is a standard sizes, um, eight feet for a pallet rack, or twelve feet or nine foot. Um, the depth of it is usually forty-two inches to hold pallets; a pallet would be forty-eight inches.
Russ: Okay. And so - and these pallet shelving - you're talking about the kind where these - where - where these - these big forklifts come in and lift them way up - see, I'm getting technical on you there okay. Well, so that's interesting, uh, that you're in that business. Uh, how many employees do you have today?
Tom: I have twenty-six.
Russ: Okay, and you're making these things; you buy rolled steel and cut it and m-and weld it and design it and turn it into shelves.
Russ: Okay, real interesting.
Tom: It comes in coil and we high-strength steel, we run it through a - a press first and then it goes down into a pit, goes into a roll former which, um, turns it into like a square tube, then it comes through a cut off press and then that's when we cut it off and take it to the weld shop.
Russ: Okay, interesting. So, uh, this is sort of a standard here on The BusinessMakers Show and the more unique the business - and this is real unique for our audience - the more I look forward to asking this question: What triggered the ides for you to get into the, uh, metal shelving business?
Tom: Well, when I first got into the business I, oh, I went into a manufacturing company, Dixie Shelving, and I looked at their factory and I said wow, this is incredible; it was the first factory I was ever in. And I - I said to myself I'm gonna work and I'm gonna work and I'm gonna own a place like this someday. And then in 2005 Linda and Larry Womack, the old owners, wanted to sell it and I was in line and I bought it and, uh, ever since then I've expanded the manufacturing end of it. I see a need; there is another - one other manufacturer in Texas in Dallas and then the closest one to us is Tennessee. So I definitely saw a need for it and I went after it.
Russ: Neat. So I'm real curious Tom, what - what motivated you, what triggered the idea to get into the metal shelving business?
Tom: I had a small construction company, wasn't really doing well and a neighbor of mine asked me if I'd be interested in installing some shelving out at Continental Airlines.
Russ: Installing it?
Tom: Yeah, just installing it. And I said sure, I have good work ethics so I got after it and I had a couple of helpers. We went out there and there were two hundred sections and he said he'd give me ten dollars a section, it came to two thousand dollars and it - I looked at it as hey, I want to do this more often, got after it and got it done but. Then I went out and I had some business cards made up and I hit all the shelving dealers in the city.
Russ: Okay, for installation services.
Tom: For installation services, exactly. And that's when I created the name Shelving Concepts.
Tom: So along the way I ran into, uh, a place called Dixie Shelving and I looked at the factory and I said wow, this is incredible and I want to get into this some day. So, uh, I kept a good relationship with Dixie (08:38-Russ: okay) and I did a lot of installation for them. Along the way though, as my business grew - I put an ad in the Yellow Pages and that help my business grow, I hired a salesman. Before long I bought my own building and then I bought another building and
Russ: But at that point were you still mainly installing or were you?
Tom: Well, I was probably doing fifty percent installation and the other fifty percent sales so, the ad in the Yellow Pages really took off.
Russ: Meaning you were selling for other manufacturers?
Tom: Exactly, yes, yes.
Russ: Okay, all right, but still not building your own.
Tom: No. It was nine - it was 2005 before I bought Dixie Shelving.
Russ: Okay, so you bought the manufacturer that you had admired.
Tom: I bought the manufacturer, exactly and they were great mentors to me and they are still very good friends (09:19-Russ: okay). SO it got in my blood the manufacturing - I saw a need for it and I saw a need where I could take this small shelving company and create more product lines; like, for instance, pallet rack, cantilever rack and I'm exploring the way to make wire decking someday (09:34-Russ: wow) but right now I'm - I'm doing great with the pallet rack and the cantilever racking.
Russ: Wow, that's pretty interesting and so, I mean, you made some pretty sizable capital acquisitions buying a company and - and keeping the equipment going and - and expanding, correct?
Russ: Okay and you're growing these days?
Tom: We are as a matter of fact we grew a good twenty percent last year and this year we're on course to probably do thirty percent growth.
Russ: Fantastic. Well Tom I really appreciate you coming in and sharing your story with us.
Tom: Well I'm glad to be here and thanks a lot for inviting me.
Russ: You bet, that's Tom Amoruso, the Founder and CEO of Shelving Concepts and this is The BusinessMakers Show, head on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com.