A Legacy of Hard Work, Integrity, and Stellar Customer Service

By Jeannie Kontis

Who started the business and when?

Fox Country Sheds has been in business since 1998. It was originally known as “Fox’s Country Sheds,” a company started by the Fox family — Earl and his son Charles — who sold the business to Adam and Jeannie Kontis when Earl retired and Charles wanted to travel for mission work. The Kontis family have owned the business since 2008, and soon after changed the name to Fox Country Sheds. We are still referred to as “the Fox family” because the business has such a well-established reputation in the area. Also, some of the original Fox family continued to work for us for several years after the transition.

What was their history, prior to starting the business? 

Adam and Jeannie had operated several successful businesses before taking over Fox Country Sheds, including involvement in real estate sales, investment, and construction, as well as three successful hospitality establishments. A background in construction and business ownership paved the way for transition to prefabricated building manufacturing.

Were there changes in location through the years? 

The current location for Fox Country Sheds has remained unchanged for several decades. Even prior to the formation of the Fox’s Country Sheds manufacturing brand in 1998, the facility had been a storage shed manufacturing shop for several decades.  Every local knows that sheds are built in “that building on 322.”  Decades past it was Brickerville Structures and then Ben’s Country Sheds before becoming Fox’s Country Sheds (now Fox Country Sheds). Most of the old T1-11 sheds that we haul away now have a Brickerville Structures placard on it from about 40 years ago or so. 

What else can you tell us about your history? 

We have been building quality backyard storage sheds in the town of Brickerville, Lititz, Pennsylvania — a small area in Lancaster County — for decades.  We are proud of the reputation that we have established and continue to uphold. 

What products and services do you provide?

We manufacture prefabricated wood storage buildings — primarily sheds and garages. We like to keep current on styles and trends that homeowners lean toward. When we originally took over the business, only vinyl sided sheds were being manufactured. We added painted sheds as well, which are quite popular.  

Our main focus is on wholesale because we respect our dealer’s time and want to be available for support as needed, to answer general inquiries or to do custom orders. We do also sell retail, mainly locally or in areas where we don’t have a dealer.  We feel it keeps our ideas for new styles and trends current so that we know what to offer our dealers. 

 What is your current territory?

We focus primarily on the East Coast of the U.S., mostly mid-Atlantic, allthough we have a few dealers in more central states and the occasional retail sales out of the area, too. For instance, we just shipped a shed to Michigan. 

What is the current business climate in your area? 

Our area in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is generally involved in a lot of manufacturing, so unemployment is relatively low. This means that homes sell easily, and homeowners need sheds. We are seeing an uptick in larger styles, such as two-story garages or large sheds in general. This seems to be the consensus from most of our wholesale orders also. While the orders might be a bit slower than in recent years, during the pandemic we had an increase in sales. We are seeing larger sized/priced orders coming in. People who have the means are buying big buildings. 

What is your primary customer base?

Our primary customer base is our wholesale dealer customer.  Besides our wholesale orders, our retail sales consist of residential (mostly) but we also have our fair share of businesses placing orders when in need of either a storage facility or even an outdoor area to retrofit for staff breakrooms or excess office space.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

There is definitely competition in the area, as we are located right in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the heartbeat of shed manufacturing on the East Coast. We don’t really do anything in particular as a gimmick to try to differentiate ourselves; rather, we treat everyone as we would want to be treated, with respect and terrific customer service. We build a quality product and it speaks for itself. Our customer service is top notch, and that is really the feedback that we hear most — from our wholesale dealers and from our retail customers. The one main point that would differentiate us from our local competition is that we are the only shed builder in the area (that we know of!) who is not a member of the Plain Community. We are the only “English” shed builder in the area and that takes people by surprise! But we feel we have an excellent relationship with our local competition and can speak freely with them about the current business climate, etc.

Tell us the challenges the company has overcome, and how you did it. 

The largest challenge has always been the workforce, generally finding labor for the shop who have the skill or are trainable, who will want to work for an honest wage, who pay attention to detail and take pride in their work. We seem to have honed that need now, and have a great crew working in the shop with us. Some have been with us for 14 years, some 10 years, and that seems encouraging to new employees who can see that they can have a good career and make a living building for Fox Country Sheds.

To what do you owe the success of your business? 

It is really the same mindset that we look for in our employees:  hard work, attention to detail, and pride in our work. We treat our customers and our employees fairly and with respect.  We have an excellent relationship with our suppliers, who have become more like friends over the years. It all boils down to being honest and respectful, and not being afraid to take chances.  You need to be flexible with ideas, with investments in your building and equipment, and with your relationships. 

What would you tell yourself three years ago or five years ago if you could?

“Don’t sweat the small stuff” would be Alex’s answer. Five years ago would have been right before the pandemic, and we had to just “go with the flow” with the materials shortages and backlogs. It was really hard to see where it would all end up — with the surcharges and pricing fluctuations. Jeannie’s answer would be “invest in technology,” as we were so busy building sheds that we really didn’t have time to keep up with our website and new online tools, which we are catching up with now. 

What is your advice to somebody who is brand new in your line of business? 

Don’t get so hung up on pricing and markup and margins right off the start. Your main concern is providing excellent customer service, and the referrals will come. Get to know your vendors and suppliers and create a relationship with them.  Make friends with your customers. They are spending a lot of money, and they want to know that you are trustworthy and not trying to make a buck off them. 

Where do you see the biggest opportunities in the coming months? Coming years? 

It’s really the online shopper that is creating the biggest opportunity.  If you are not reaching your consumer online and giving them all of the information they need, while still providing personal service, you are not taking advantage of the biggest opportunities available to you. And this is an ongoing effort, as technology changes so quickly. 

Where do you see the biggest challenges in the coming months? Coming years? 

The biggest challenges would be HOAs and local government obstacles with regards to setbacks and whether a homeowner can get a shed that they want and place it in a reasonable area in their yard.  Some newer home developments and local zoning make it hard for a homeowner to place a shed, making them jump through hoops such as stormwater studies, etc, that it really creates a burden for many customers. They just get overwhelmed with the paperwork. 

An equal challenge as a manufacturer is the cost of insurance. General liability, property insurance, and worker’s compensation for our line of work is getting to be very expensive. Of course we continue to be insured to protect ourselves and our employees, as well as our customers, but the reality of it is we know that many of our competitors are not insured, and oftentimes they end up paying for it greatly. 

What are the things that you are not good at and would love to learn more about? 

So many areas! None of us are perfect and we always have a lot to learn. Time-management would be a good start; it’s easy to plan your day of phone calls and appointments, but as a business owner there are always obstacles that get thrown in the mix and can upend the schedule. The shop schedule never gets missed. You have to be good at letting the reins loose a bit and pivoting and still getting the sheds completed in time for loading on the trailer that has been scheduled for weeks. 

Technology can help with some of those time constraints, but we need to make time to learn about the technology, and then it can mess up the time-management thing. 

What are your Three Keys to Good Business? 

1. Hard work – never being afraid of the long hours and planning involved.  

2. Integrity – being honest in your business dealings and in life in general. 

3. Self-efficacy – having the self confidence to take risks and seeing things through. 

What are your business goals for the future? 

We are always looking to increase our wholesale accounts because we are a manufacturer and that is our main business. We are always open to talking to retailers to see how we can help them to add Fox sheds to their inventory. 

We are also always on the lookout for a larger manufacturing plant, or a property to build on so we can really spread out and work more efficiently. 

Lastly, future plans would include Alex taking the reins entirely as Adam and Jeannie take lesser roles in the day-to-day obligations. 

Tell us about your company culture and business philosophy.

The Fox Country Sheds Mission Statement:  It is our goal to provide our (wholesale and retail) customers with a superior product built with integrity and quality. We strive to satisfy our customer’s needs through the process of ordering, customizing, and delivering a product which will enhance the end user’s  property and fulfill their storage needs within their budget.

Who are your component suppliers? Can we give a shout-out to them for their great products?

  ■ Metal Roofing from AB Martin.  Shingles from Service Wholesale Inc.

■ Plywood & Lumber from Capital Forest Products, Seven D Wholesale, Culpeper

■ Insulation – Elite Insulation, Home Depot

■ Fasteners, Adhesives, Sealants – Apple Outdoor Supply, WEH Supply, Leola Fasteners, Corus

■ Ventilation – Ridge vents: CL Aluminum, Gable vents: Apple Outdoor Supply

■ Columns & Railings – Red Run Structures 

■ Windows & Doors – Bird-In-Hand Windows, Apple Outdoor Supply, WEH Supply 

■ LVL Beams:  AB Martin, Mussleman Lumber  GSCB