Fence firm's retail stores boosted business
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
6/27/12 at 2:44 AM
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BROKEN ARROW - Recession bred innovation at Midland Vinyl Fence Co., which manufactures and installs its products.
The company functioned for nearly 14 years as a small vinyl fence fabrication facility in central Broken Arrow, but when tough times hit, owner Dennis Laxson knew he had to try something else.
"Business got pretty hard with the Great Recession," Laxson said. "Before that, we were just like a lot of other companies and getting by just fine. But people just stopped buying fences, and no one in town was selling."
The company, which Laxson bought six years ago, ventured into new territory, opening a retail fencing location in Tulsa and hiring his own installation crew.
Since then, business has boomed, especially since November, when Laxson ventured away from traditional white fencing and branched into a new line of faux-wood and multicolored fences.
The company now employs 16 people: three in fabrication, eight in installation and the rest in sales and support. Midland Vinyl Fence has also established four retail locations.
Laxson answered a few questions about how the company has grown in the last two years from just three workers.
How did you decide a retail storefront was a good idea for the fence business?
All my life I've worked in retail in one way or another. I used to own eight Texaco Express Lubes in the area before we sold to Jiffy Lube, and I was a partner in a few car washes around the area.
People spend a lot of money on their fences. It makes sense that they would want a place where they can go in and see what they're getting before they buy. With most fences, you just order from a catalog or online. This way, you can at least see the product before you spend $5,000 or more.
How did the recession affect the fence business?
Fences are a high-ticket item, and it's not a decision people just jump into. About 80 percent of our business comes from the residential side and about 20 percent from commercial. When people aren't looking to spend money on their homes or sell, they really don't think about doing things like building fences.
Business was way down in 2008 and 2009, but started to come back up, starting last year.
The kind of people who buy vinyl fences are willing to spend a little more money so that it'll look nice for 20 years, and they don't want to maintain it. Sometimes it's the last fence they want to buy.
What other changes have you made to your business?
When we brought in the different color fencing from a company in Long Island, N.Y., business really took off. It was a product that we had that no one else had. We just got in a new kind of fence that looks like stone and can withstand high winds.
It has really helped us get into the commercial side more, which is really new territory for us.
We're looking at some other options, too, like a patio canopy that opens and closes and will stop the rain or let you look up at the stars.
For years, it was just three of us here at the shop, and the business was running pretty smooth. Now we have crews out there installing fences for the first time, and retail shops. It's really quite a bit different than just a few months ago.
Midland Vinyl Fence Co.
Owner: Dennis Laxson
No. of employees: 16
Description: Vinyl fence fabrication and installation, with four showrooms in Tulsa
Small, but significant
Despite having a number of large employers, Tulsa actually is a small-business town. About 94 percent of all employment in the metro area is at businesses that have 100 or fewer employees, according to the Tulsa Metro Chamber. And, many of those firms are very small. Approximately 80 percent of total employment is at businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
Original Print Headline: No barriers to success
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
Dennis Laxson, owner of Midland Vinyl Fence, has overseen expansion from manufacturing into retail sales and installation. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Ricky Fernandez, general manager at Midland Vinyl Fence, trims a piece of product at the company's fabrication facility in Broken Arrow. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World