Home Month and Year April 2024 Shoemaker Drywall Supplies – Celebrating 50 Years

Shoemaker Drywall Supplies – Celebrating 50 Years


When Clare and Judy Shoemaker, along with a handful of family members, started their drywall business in Lethbridge in 1974, they could never have imagined what Shoemaker Drywall Supplies would become over the next five decades. And while the company has experienced a great deal of change over those years, the commitment to quality and a focus on people has never wavered.

It may have started as a small family-run operation in Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, but the Shoemakers had big plans for the organization. They saw opportunity in the larger centres and decided to close the doors in Lethbridge and launch the Shoemaker brand in Calgary in 1979. The company established a reputation for integrity and a dedication to service, and as that reputation grew so did the company. They moved from Medicine Hat to Edmonton in 1985, expanded to Kelowna in 2007, spread throughout the province and into British Columbia through acquisitions, opened a second location in Calgary in 2015 and are currently expanding in the Manitoba market.

“They started a journey of growth, and Shoemaker went from being a two-store company to having locations spanning every province in Western Canada, some with multiple locations. Some came by way of new greenfield locations and some by way of acquisition,” says Greg Holunga, president of Shoemaker Drywall Supplies. “As of today, we are 14 locations strong and still looking at ways that we can continue growing.”

One of those paths to growth led them to join other influential companies in the industry in January 2009. Shoemaker merged with Ontario’s Watson Building Supplies and the Beauchesne Group of Companies out of Quebec to create WSB Titan, the largest independently-owned drywall supplier in the country. As a subsidiary, Shoemaker was able to expand its offerings by acquiring companies in related fields and diversifying its product lines and services to serve a larger swath of the building market. The capabilities of the WSB Titan group attracted the attention of Gypsum Management and Supply (GMS), the largest Gypsum Specialty Dealer in North America. In 2018, the group became part of GMS Canada thus shifting the company from the family business to a publicly-owned entity operating as a subsidiary division of GMS.

“It was a big transition going from private to public but we’ve overcome those initial hurdles, and while there are challenges of course, our staff retention and satisfaction have steadily improved. What we’re doing moving forward as a public company is ticking those boxes while still being true to our core values. I think it has served us well,” says Holunga.
Those core values dictate the direction the business takes and no matter how large or diverse the company gets, the Shoemaker family’s original values remain the foundation of the company.

Much More Than Drywall

Those values navigated the company through a significant growth period as Shoemaker became both larger and more diverse in the market, so much so that it outgrew its original name. The company is more commonly known as SDS due to product expansion and the wide diversity of product lines. Today, it is a trusted distributor of the best construction products in the country with applications running the gamut of residential, commercial and institutional sectors.

One significant growth area is roofing. The organization started residential roofing 14 years ago and the success of that pushed the team to recently enter commercial roofing as well. They are seeing impressive results in the test markets and they plan to offer full-service organization-wide commercial roofing in the near future.

“We’ve made heavy investments in commercial roofing and I suspect that one day it will be a key product category for us,” says Holunga.

While SDS still accommodates its traditional customers with a range of quality drywall, insulation and steel framing products, it has also extended its product lines to include fasteners, polyethylene, finishing products, roofing and general tools. SDS offers everything from spray foam and fire stop to wall fabrics and acoustical ceiling panels. That growth is mirrored in the office where SDS has built a comprehensive team of sales, finance, human resources and operations professionals who offer incredible service and build relationships to continue growing the business. Shoemaker goes above and beyond, offering after-hours and weekend deliveries facilitated by the largest Gypsum Specialty Dealer (GSD) fleet in the country. The full-time mechanics keep everything running well, from the impressive fleet of 90-foot cranes to the state-of-the-art boom trucks and equipment.

SDS delivers big results for customers but has retained the agility and nimbleness of a small, independent operation. The team across locations prides itself on being able to pivot and work together to get any job done.

“Teamwork is huge within Shoemaker,” says Rob Kennedy, director of Operations for SDS. “We can get a call from a branch that is swamped and we can ask ‘who is willing to travel and help take care of that?’ We’ll have lots of guys with their hands up to help out.”

That teamwork has allowed SDS to participate in iconic projects across Western Canada: Bow Tower, Calgary Cancer Centre and Calgary Central Library in Calgary; Rogers Place, Yellowknife Hospital and Stantec Tower in Edmonton; University of Lethbridge Science Centre and Agiplex; Red Deer Justice Centre; Human Rights Museum, Wawanesa Tower and 300 Main in Winnipeg; and Royal Inland Hospital, The Parc Tower, Lionsgate Hospital and Children’s and Women’s Hospital (VGH) in British Columbia; and so many more.

“Our success has been driven by customer demand, market opportunity and a relentless pursuit to be a major contributor to the Western Canadian construction scene by providing critical products and services to meet the demands of home builders, developers and general contractors, in partnership with our customers,” Holunga says. “Through communication, coordination and execution, we are unstoppable!”
SDS is a true partner and the company’s unstoppable success has hinged on delivering exciting projects for client partners without compromising the family atmosphere and positive culture made possible by its foundational core values.

Values Drive Growth at SDS

The company was built on relationships and throughout the ownership transition, challenges during COVID and economic fluctuations, the SDS team has continued to invest in them. After all, relationships are what fuel the company’s mission and vision. The goal remains to create opportunities, build significant relationships and deliver solutions, all of which are facilitated by the core values woven throughout the organization.

“Investing in relationships and servicing others is what we do. The majority of partners, which is how we look at our customers, have been with us since the beginning,” says Jason Bowley, vice president of Sales for SDS.

At its core, SDS focuses on giving its people the independence and authority to be effective, investing in relationships with vendors and customers, placing a priority on service and pursuing a safe work environment and operational excellence. Its philosophy is summed up by one simple statement, “you can never go wrong doing the right thing,” and Shoemaker prides itself on doing the right thing for staff, suppliers, customers and the community every day.

By providing quality products coupled with an unbeatable customer experience, Shoemaker has created a strong, loyal client base and solid relationships with vendors that date back decades. Rather than jumping from vendor to vendor chasing the lowest price, SDS opts for loyalty and stays with partners that offer the best value for the team and the customer. Vendors appreciate that loyalty and view Shoemaker as much more than just a distribution company; they are partners dedicated to getting large amounts of quality product out to customers, making both sides successful. On any given day, SDS takes 50 B-Trains of product into its locations, allowing the teams to meet their commitments to vendors and exceed customers’ expectations.

“Something [former owner] Ryan Shoemaker said stuck with me, and that is you should treat your vendors like they’re your largest customer, and I think we’ve done very well at that,” says Shane Drover, Supply Chain manager for SDS.

The company has also done well at attracting and retaining quality staff who are committed to the corporate culture of respect, service and quality and who are invested in making SDS a continued success.

The Keys to Success: People

At SDS, the people make the difference and the executive team does all it can to support the staff. Their extensive training and safety programs ensure that employees are qualified to do their jobs well so they’re set up for personal success while producing exceptional results for clients. Their education goes beyond job training, and the executive team is happy to help employees develop their careers through courses or degree programs. SDS encourages growth, so whenever possible the team promotes from within to introduce those growth opportunities and facilitate an employee’s desired career change. As the company expands into new areas, employees are also able to pursue new and varied careers without leaving Shoemaker.

“We’ve done a great job of identifying talent and allowing a path for that talent to reach its full potential, in whatever capacity, and we’ll help them excel and succeed,” says Curtis Salt, director of Finance for SDS. “It’s good for the company, it’s good for our people and it’s good for morale.”

Morale is strong at SDS, and the nearly 400 employees across the organization enjoy the culture of respect and collaboration that has been a key pillar since the beginning. On top of educational opportunities, the company provides great wages and financial perks that show staff that they are valued and appreciated.

“Because we’re part of the GMS Canada umbrella, the buying power that we have now to put incentive programs in front of our employees is bigger so we can reward them more,” says Jody Jones, Human Resources manager for SDS. “We’ve just recently increased our RRSP contribution program and our benefits. We try to make sure employees are taken care of to service all the internal partners that we’ve got.”
SDS employees also have access to the GMS Family Fund which helps people cover unexpected financial setbacks ranging from replacing a totalled vehicle to repairing property damage from forest fires. Shoemaker looks out for employees, and the payoff is immense. The company boasts a large number of long-time dedicated employees, some of whom have 30-plus years of service, and the executive team is thankful to have a mix of seasoned and novice employees helping them grow the company across the region.

The company takes care of the community as well, and throughout the years SDS has supported the Red Cross of Canada’s response to natural disasters and emergencies across the country. The team also supports the people in its backyards, sponsoring local minor sports teams, food banks, children’s hospitals and huge toy drives for kids. They are proud to give back to the communities that have supported them over the past 50 years.

Bright Future

As Canada addresses the need for more infrastructure and housing, SDS will be there to support the construction industry to make it happen. After 50 years of growth and evolution in the industry, the future is bright and exciting at Shoemaker Drywall Supplies.