Publication date: September 1, 2010

By Jim Cory

It must have seemed to the Magdens that their timing was seriously off. In 2006 brothers Harley and Aaron Magden, marketing and sales managers, respectively, at Regency Windows, in Cleveland, left the company founded by their father, Mike, and for six months considered different business options, home improvement among them. "We felt," Harley says, "that the window business and the home improvement business would be stronger than other businesses." They had a non-compete agreement with Regency Windows keeping them out of Cleveland, so they chose a company name, Window Nation, and opened in Baltimore, reasoning that the Beltway had the right housing stock (older) and a surfeit of government jobs. Today the company has four locations.

Biggest of the Biggest

Window Nation is the new blood of recent additions to Replacement Contractor's list of the 100 largest companies in the home improvement industry, which includes roofing, siding, and window firms as well as those that do short-cycle jobs inside the house, such as kitchen cabinet refacing, bath liners, and basement waterproofing, as well as decks.

In 2009, the total revenue for residential remodeling for the 100 companies on the list was $2.2 billion, with the largest — Window World, based in North Wilkesboro, N.C. — posting 2009 revenue of $373 million. Two years ago, low-price marketer Window World clambered to the top of the Replacement 100 as the company steadily expanded both unit and dollar sales. It remains the largest home improvement company in the U.S., having held its own through the recession — unlike some other companies, a few of which are gone altogether.

Window World CEO Blair Ingle acknowledges that his company's price-point strategy — its famous "$189 window" — hasn't hurt at a time when consumers are watching their pennies. "I think we have a natural advantage," Ingle says, "but that's no guarantee of success." What's suddenly become a nation of penny-pinchers obviously likes the idea of paying less for windows. For 2010, Ingle expects the company to be up at least 15% in units and dollars, depending on the outcome of the fall selling season.

A number of home improvement contractors, such as Brookhaven, Pa., company Power Windows & Siding — which vaulted from No. 23 on the 2008 list to No. 4 this year — have found the recessionary economy fertile ground for their marketing and selling efforts. And then, sometimes, nature intercedes. For instance, this June a hailstorm 80 miles long and 30 miles wide swept through southern Minnesota. As a result, says Dale Brenke, owner of Schmidt Siding & Window Co., in Mankato, "we are absolutely buried in work."