Donald R. Simon, president and chief executive officer of Contractors Steel, founded the company in August 1960 at the urging of his wife, Esther Simon. Donald was making a measly $137 a week in take-home pay from a small steel service center, Dresser Steel. He ultimately decided to quit his job, rented two small rooms in a Detroit building supply company, plus a small space in the rear of the building, and went into business himself. He sold his Ford retractable hard top and bought a 1954 Chevrolet with power glide to serve as truck. On his way out of Dresser Steel, Donald convinced a truck driver there, Marc Bokas, to work for the new company. Bokas remained the general manager of Contractors Steel until 1999, and his family today maintains a special connection with the company. The company started with a 10-ton Bucyrus Erie 50-foot boom-tracked crane. Esther Simon was responsible for answering the phones, Marc drove the truck, and Donald ran the crane and made sales. Contractors Steel was started with the idea of selling small amounts of specialty steel to sub-contractors around the Detroit area – hence the name Contractors Steel. Its initial inventory reflected this goal: A bank loan allowed the purchase of 25 tons of various steel items purchased from another service center, which was stored on the ground under a tarp. In the winters, Donald and Marc spent much time trying to detach the frozen tarp from the steel.
Several core company values that continue to exist at the company today were developed during this time. The first value was reinvestment of profit in Plant and Equipment. This began with the initial sacrifice Donald Simon took on when starting the company, and continued in each year at his first plant. For example, in 1965, CSC was able to put up a roof, in ’67, they put up a wall, and in ‘1968, they moved to a larger plant. While the Simon family took on the bulk of financial risk, all early members of the company were expected to be punctual and follow the rules. The underlying goal with the rules was to serve the interests of the customer. Between 1960 and 1970, Donald and Marc established a company built on values of respect, hard work, and service.
Contractors Establishes Itself as a Mainstay in Midwest
The 1970s and 80s were marked by steady growth for the company, and as a result steady investment in plant and equipment. In Livonia, Contractors continued to expand their Livonia facility by purchasing new processing machines. Steel previously stored outside under a tarp was now housed in a proper building, and a new focus on organizing inventory such that it could be retrieved quickly was stressed. However, demand for our services continued to grow, and in 1980, we purchased a new racking system accessible by a side loader to keep up with the storage of our inventory. Despite building expansion, the company was unable to meet the growing demand from within the building, and again needed to store plate outside. Cranes were setup outside to manage the increasingly large inventory Contractors began to carry to most effectively service its customers. In 1975, Contractors opened their first expansion in Grand Rapids, MI under the leadership of Keith Ford with 23,000 square feet. Throughout the 1980s, additional expansions to Grand Rapids took place, by installing new cranes and expanding space for inventory there. By 1990, the plant had 68,000 square feet and had introduced a press brake, shear, cutting saws, and a semi-automatic rack and retrieval system. In 1986, Contractors purchased a building in Twinsburg, Ohio, and began a series of expansions there into the 1990s. By 1990, sales for the company surrounded $55 million and employee count had reached 100 people.
Continued Growth, Against the Odds
Contractors spent the 1990s continuing to expand in Livonia, Grand Rapids, and Twinsburg until we ran out of space to expand. In 1997, Contractors broke ground to build its Van Buren facility, which eventually expanded to 450,000 square feet. Van Buren serves as a core depot of the company. In 2009, in the midst of a recession across the US, we purchased a new steel service center in East Chicago, Indiana. In 2013, we moved our East Chicago staff to our new Hammond Indiana facility. Today, Contractors Steel ranks as the 37th largest metals service center in the United States. At its core, CSC is a family company, and remains so today.