By Karen Knapstein

Editor’s Note: We introduced you to Solanco Metal Roofing last year (Rollforming Magazine, August/September 2021, “Farmer Watches Semi-Retirement Plans Fade with Success of Metal Shop”). As noted at the end of that original article, big changes were on the horizon. Now that most of those changes have come to pass, here’s the update we promised.

Ephraim Esch, owner of Solanco Metal Roofing, Quarryville, Pennsylvania, just made a big move. It was only about a mile, but it was a big move just the same. In early January, Esch rounded up all the help he could get, including his sons, sons-in-law, and brothers, and they moved his business from its original location on his dairy farm to his new 100’ x 303’ x 18’ building about a mile away. 

They moved most of the equipment, including the trim machines and folder, and all the coil by loading it onto a gooseneck trailer with a pair of forklifts and hauling it with a pickup truck. The biggest piece of the company’s equipment — the roll former — was moved with a tractor trailer. They began the move January 7; it took about a week to get into production at the new location.

Undertaking the move was not without challenges. Ephraim said coordinating the move was most difficult. “The preplanning and actual moving and coordinating and trying to make sure everything comes together the way you want it was stressful,” he said. “The people weren’t hard to deal with. The equipment wasn’t hard to deal with. But trying to make sure everything landed the way it was supposed to land was stressful.”

Roll forming machine
One of the roll formers at Solanco Metals/Solanco Building Supply.

Ephraim’s advice for anyone who must relocate equipment: “Roll up your sleeves and expect it to be very stressful, but it’s satisfying when it’s all done. It was a very stressful couple of days, but I had good people to work with.” He also recommends that even after you have done all your preplanning, be ready to adjust that plan.

In addition to having friends and family to help with the relocation and setup, Ephraim could also count on the professionals at Acu-Form. Wayne Troyer and two others spent two or three days working on the equipment in the new location. “They got everything cleaned up, reset and recalibrated. They tuned up everything. I was very happy with working with them.”

Two Businesses Under One Roof

In his old building on the farm, every inch was spoken for. The new post-frame building has enough space to house two retail businesses: a 100’ x 150’ space is dedicated to Solanco Metal Roofing, while Solanco Building Supply occupies the balance, 100’ x 153’. The lumber yard, operated independently from the metal business, is to better serve contractors’ needs. 

“The reason for the lumber yard is people like a one-stop shop. A lot of contractors around here want to make just one phone call for their wood and metal,” explained Ephraim. “We’re getting business through the lumber yard, and they’re getting business through us.” Between the two businesses, a builder can get everything they need.

Room to Grow

Ephraim started the Solanco roll-forming business by himself in 2014. As of March 2022, he has three employees plus himself. “It’s growing all the time. It just keeps going and going and going,” he said. “The move was hectic; we couldn’t find anything. But it’s going well now. We are busy even though it’s winter. We’re not totally organized yet, but we’re getting close.”

Roll forming machine at company
Another roll former that came with the move to the new location.

With the new setup, there’s plenty of room for workers to move around when making components. There’s also plenty of room for storage. In addition to the larger footprint, the new facility has 18-foot ceilings versus the 9-foot ceilings they had in the old building. “It’s filling up rather quickly, but it will not be near as tight as the other space.” The new space also has room for the new Roper Whitney folder he has on order. 

“This [setup] will be a lot more efficient,” he continued. “We’re going to stock more trim colors. We’ve got more employees and a better facility that makes it easier to get around. All these things point to the direction of more growth and being more efficient.” 

Lessons Learned

When asked what advice he would give to those who are thinking about setting up shop themselves, Ephraim said, “The number one thing for people starting out is they have to determine if they have a customer base to do it. We have a population center here, which I kind of thought was underserved. We have a lot of building going on in our area. We have got competitors in the county. I’m thirty miles south of them, but I thought [Solanco] would fit well since we have lots of contractors and lots of builders and lots of homeowners.” The company’s growth backs up Ephraim’s notion.  

“If some guy is out in the boondocks,” he cautions, “that is not a big population center, I’m skeptical that it will work. You have to make sure you have a population center. You also have to be willing to work hard and long. And the number one thing is you gotta service the customer. The customer must have good service or they will not return. I was told when I started: ‘If you do a bad job, the whole world will find out before your neighbor knows you can do anything good.’ And I never forgot that.” RF