Toggle

New ownership on the table at Rocksolid

By RACHEL ABBEY MCCAFFERTY        

Cleveland countertop company Rocksolid Surfaces is going through some changes.

First up is that name. Until recently, the company was known alternately as Wood Dimensions Inc., Solid Surfaces Plus and Rocksolid Stone Works. As of March, all three entities are now owned by Walsh Commercial Group, and the company primarily will refer to them as one company: Rocksolid Surfaces.

Thomas Rocks started the company in 1979. At that time, it was focused on woodworking and custom cabinetry. It added countertops in the 1980s. Today, it works in materials ranging from natural materials like granite and quartz to wood to manufactured solid surfaces.

The sale started as a joke, almost. Rocks had known J.B. Walsh and his family for decades as friends and as customers. Walsh said that he and Rocks had been talking after playing tennis and Rocks said he should come work for him.

“Arrogantly, I said I’d rather buy your company than run it,” Walsh said.

But he was kind of serious. And a few years later, the chance came up.

Rocks began considering retirement and received an offer from a national group to buy the company and run it as a division.

“So that made it serious,” Walsh said.

Walsh Commercial Group, which was formed to purchase Rocksolid, put in a formal bid and moved forward with the acquisition process.

Negotiating with a friend was difficult, Walsh said, but he feels both parties “got a fair deal.” He declined to share the price of the acquisition, which was completed at the start of March.

At the time of the sale, Rocks, his sister and his daughter were the owners. Now, it’s owned by J.B. Walsh and his cousin, Jim Walsh, along with their fathers. J.B. Walsh is now president, and Jim Walsh is vice president of operations.

Overall, Rocks said he was “pretty enthusiastic” about the idea of selling his business to them.

“I felt they were going to treat the employees the way that I felt the employees needed to be treated,” Rocks said.

Some of the employees at Rocksolid had been with Rocks since the start, he said, and he didn’t want to see them out of a job.

Before buying Rocksolid, both of the Walshes had industrial experience, though not in the countertops business. J.B. Walsh had been in business development and sales management in the industrial chemicals market. Jim Walsh had been in pricing analytics and inventory management. And their fathers had owned a bearings company, where both J.B. and Jim Walsh had worked growing up. (They didn’t really overlap, as there’s more than a decade between them.)

To help with the transition as they get to know the business, Rocks will stay on with the company for the next four years.

The company has about 80 employees and does $10 million to $15 million in sales annually, J.B. Walsh said.

About 90% of the business is in countertops, J.B. Walsh said. Its biggest customer base is big box retail stores and kitchen and bath dealers. It primarily serves residential customers in the northern Ohio region, but also commercial ones.

The showroom and the countertop business is at 4031 W. 150th St. in Cleveland, with a second building about a mile away.

J.B. Walsh said the three divisions had been operating as separate companies, and the Walshes are putting a stronger focus on operating as one. There’s a lot of overlap and opportunity for cross-training of employees. For example, the divisions had been measuring for projects separately, even if a customer was getting countertops and new cabinets.

J.B. Walsh said his goal is to grow the company, especially in the commercial market, and to make it more efficient. He wants to invest in technology. Sure, that means equipment and tooling to streamline some of what’s now done by hand, but Rocksolid needed some work outside of the plant, too.

For example, employees in the field had been working on paper. J.B. Walsh wants to take the company paperless, using tablets in the field, and has been upgrading flip phones to smartphones.

Something that makes Rocksolid Surfaces unusual as a business is that everything it makes is customized. Jim Walsh said that as the company adds more technology, it’s important to maintain the high quality customers expect.

The company’s also updating its website and doing more marketing. It doesn’t want to cut out the large retail stores it works with, but it does want potential direct customers to better recognize its brand.

So far, the cousins are enjoying being their own bosses.

“At the end of the day, it’s on us,” Jim Walsh said. “You know, whether we succeed or fail, it’s on us. And that’s always kind of appealed to me.”

J.B. Walsh agreed, saying it’s a “risk-reward situation.”

“I don’t think you really get anywhere in life without taking risks,” J.B. Walsh said.

J.B. Walsh said he hopes to purchase more companies through Walsh Commercial Group in the future, though they wouldn’t have to relate to Rocksolid Surfaces.

Promotion Space