Apple Outdoor Supply is All About Delivering to Their Customers

By Linda Schmid

Tom Waymouth, General Manager

In 1997, William Gula and a small group of investors began a distributorship delivering fasteners to construction companies. They called it Apple Outdoor Supply. As time went on, they noticed further opportunities in accessories for sheds. 

Early Challenges

The immediate challenges that the company faced were finding the products prospective customers needed as well as sourcing manufacturers to make their patented products. Their earliest patents were offset hinges for sheds and chicken coop windows that were needed when their shed-making customers dove into the chicken coop business. 

Distribution Focused

With a focus on distribution and delivering what the customer needs, Apple doesn’t like to pigeonhole themselves, Tom Waymouth, General Manager said. The result is they deal in components for a wide range of manufactured products. Today Apple Outdoor Supply’s product lineup includes hardware and accessories for sheds, barns, and other wood structures, carports, and metal structures, along with outdoor furniture and playsets. 

Mike Thomas, Warehouse Lead

The company serves the whole United States from two branches, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. They have regional routes and drop shipping for destinations beyond the reach of their routes.

Product Lineup

The product lineup evolves organically; a customer tells them what they need, and they source or produce it. But they also go looking for the niches that aren’t filled. If people can’t seem to find the exact bolt they need, Apple will source it. When they can’t find what a customer needs, Apple makes it. When the codes change in the industry, they develop new products to meet and exceed the new codes. In the last year they just released a new 6-lite door complete with Craftsman style core for sheds.

Constantly innovating, the team looks for better solutions for the industry. Research and development are outsourced, so the company can keep their focus on customers. 

Recent Challenges

Not only must product lines evolve with the times, so too must processes. Waymouth said they just upgraded their 20-year-old computer system. Naturally, that takes some time to navigate between transitioning data, learning new software, and optimizing the system to maintain and enhance their service.

In House

Waymouth said that the company has a family culture, fostering behaviors that promote courtesy, kindness, helpfulness, and customer service. They are a family of 31 people now, and Waymouth said they are proud of the team they have built over the years. He added that they have been fortunate to pick up some great people in the last year to fill positions in delivery, warehousing, and management…positions across the board. 

Waymouth believes that success in finding the right people is in part because they are financially stable and able to offer good benefits, but it also has a lot to do with culture.

Brian Pitts, Purchasing Manager

“We have had people leave, then return because they like the people and the work environment here,” he said.

The team has worked on improving customer service, communications both internally and externally, and getting the right products to the customer when they need them. To this end, they have expanded delivery routes and they “touch” more people locally than ever before.

Lessons Learned

“I’ve learned to expect the unexpected,” Waymouth said. “For example: COVID. That unexpected challenge turned the business world upside down. You had to be nimble and just do what you could.”

If you expect the unexpected, contingency plans are in order. You can’t plan for everything, but if you have some decent contingency plans in place, you may be able to adapt one for whatever challenge pops up.

Some of Waymouth’s best advice for newcomers: “Learn, learn, learn. There are so many products in the industry, and your customers have a wealth of knowledge, which they will be happy to share if you ask them,” he added.

Looking Ahead

Markets continue to evolve. Currently there are many changes in the steel structure industry, including new aesthetics, such as transoms, on tiny houses and barndos. There is a lot of opportunity, and the Apple team intends to do their part by innovating products, helping their customers grow, and in the process growing themselves,” Waymouth said, “It is an exciting time to be part of the industry.” GSCB