Ed Dunlap, like most business owners, strives to limit operating costs. But for him, the term “overhead” has a dual meaning.
His company, CentiMark Corp., specializes in commercial and industrial roof construction.
The Southpointe-based firm is among the premier roofing contractors in the U.S. A year ago, it was No. 1 in total revenue – $625.8 million – more than $125 million ahead of the runner-up, according to Roofing Contractor Magazine.
“We’re a pretty big operation,” Dunlap said, with a smile and without a trace of arrogance.
He is chairman and chief executive officer, the man who founded this company a half-century ago – in April 1968 – and nurtured it into a formidable force, one that has experienced good times and emerged unscathed from national downturns. CentiMark, which also does flooring, has 85 locations across North America, including five in Canada. The firm has a presence in 42 states, including Hawaii and Alaska, and employs 3,500.
CentiMark’s presence, actually, extends beyond this continent. The company has done a lot of roofing work in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. “We had a big job in St. Thomas,” Dunlap said.
Longevity has been a hallmark. The reasons it has endured, and is projected to endure, are simple, according to the boss.
“Number one, I’m Irish,” said Dunlap, who is proud of his heritage. “Hard work is second. And we’re surrounded by excellent associates.”
Those 3,500 associates include about 150 working in Southpointe, in two buildings.
Dunlap would not betray his exact age, saying he is “in the 70s.” He runs the company with his son, Tim, the chief operating officer.
Both are family men to be sure. Ed and his wife, Anna, who live in Upper St. Clair, have four children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Tim and his wife, Teri, reside in Peters Township and have three children and two grandchildren.
Their concept of “family,” however, goes beyond traditional relatives. CentiMark has a reputation for philanthropy, for reaching out not only to tropical nations in need, but to human services agencies, schoolchildren and other interests. Ed is particularly proud of the roofing and siding renovations his crews performed at St. Anne Roman Catholic Church in Castle Shannon.
Starting and growing CentiMark wasn’t easy. Dunlap, who was raised outside Cleveland, began his career with a different firm based in that city. Then he was transferred to Pittsburgh, where “it was like coming home.” His paternal grandparents had settled in Western Pennsylvania after leaving Ireland.
Dunlap later launched the first iteration of CentiMark as a janitorial products operation known as Northern Chemical Co., situated in a little two-man office along Route 51 in Pittsburgh.
“We were next to a creek, and rats used to visit us in the basement,” Dunlap recalled. “We got rid of them, then got rid of the building.”
His enterprise relocated to a site along Venetia Road in Peters Township, then eventually to an industrial park in Bethel Park. In the interim – in 1987 – it became CentiMark.
Nine years later, the company became one of the first tenants in Southpointe when it to moved to 12 Grandview Circle, its current digs.
Tim Dunlap, almost literally, has grown up with this business. He was 8 when it started, and did odd jobs there into his early adolescence. Tim worked for his dad through high school, and became a full-time employee about a week after clutching his Bethel Park diploma.
“I started June 17, 1978,” he said. “I began working with the flooring crews, learning from the ground up, and did a number of jobs. I was very well-versed in the business.
“Dad was very steadfast that I wouldn’t be just the boss’ son. I had to work hard and then some. My dad ... all he does is work.”
Kathy Slencak can attest to that. She is CentiMark’s public relations manager and a longtime employee. “Mr. Dunlap is an entrepreneur,” she said. “To him, it’s not 9 to 5; it’s your life.”
Slencak said the firm experienced a major metamorphosis a generation or so ago, when it “grew like a bad weed.” Revenue jumped from $10 million in 1984 to a company high $100 million in 1994 – a target Ed Dunlap had coveted for years.
“Our goal now,” Slencak said, “is to be the first in the roofing industry to reach $1 billion (in a year).”
CentiMark has neatly appointed headquarters on a bluff off Technology Drive. The Dunlaps have numerous photos and memorabilia in their offices related to their respective passions.
Ed has a few Three Stooges pictures on his walls, but baseball-related items dominate his workspace. He is a devoted fan who, when he takes in a game in Kansas City next month, will have visited 20 of 30 major-league stadiums. The 10 venues from Texas to the West Coast are on his itinerary.
Tim’s pastime is cars, cars, cars. They fill two garages at home.
He is the heir apparent at CentiMark, but it may be a while before the son is in charge. Ed Dunlap is not a retiring sort in any sense. He plans to continue working.
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t know what to do otherwise. Besides, my wife would kick me out.”
He’d probably go immediately to the office.