Before there was such a thing as green building, and before “indoor-outdoor living” became the hottest design-build concept around, and even before the popularization of aluminum windows, a Maryland family was setting the standard for window and door sales and installation in the Northeast.
Now in its seventh decade in fenestration, the Sanders family of Baltimore is still on top of its game as the industry continues to test its business with new challenges and innovations. The one constant, says John Sanders, is a commitment to providing clients with the best possible products and unmatched service.
“In our territory, there are very few family businesses that are still in operation, in terms of dealerships,” says the fourth-generation family member at The Sanders Company. “There are quite a few of our customers that appreciate that we’re still a small family business and that there are Sanders family members who are still actively involved in the company.”
The company’s sales manager has been working for the family business since 2000, under this father and uncle, the president and vice president, respectively. But the company has been operating since 1954, treating its relatively small but loyal staff of 20 employees as members of the family.
“A big secret of our success is keeping our employees happy, and customers appreciate knowing how dedicated we are,” Sanders says.
Also factoring into the company’s continued success is its five-year relationship with Western Window Systems, whose aluminum door systems and windows have been a boon for The Sanders Company as architects, builders, and homeowners in Maryland and the Northeast have turned their attention to aluminum in a region traditionally known for using wood windows in residential projects.
“Western Window Systems is in the right place and the right time,” Sanders says. “Everybody is after contemporary architecture and indoor-outdoor living. It’s super-hot. They want a thin profile, clean lines, big glass, and solid construction, and that’s where Western Window Systems’ entrance in the market has helped our bottom line.”
Speaking of oversize custom products, they’re directly related to one of The Sanders Company’s biggest challenges in recent years: keeping up with architects, who, according to Sanders, want to keep building larger and larger with bigger glass and bigger doors. Fortunately, he says, architects and builders have to come expect professionalism and know-how from the firm.
“It’s an important aspect of our business,” says Sanders, “where we’re providing the architect and builder a level of expertise, thereby taking one more concern off their backs as far as responsibility for these projects.”
He also knows that Western Window Systems appreciates the responsibility The Sanders Company takes in dealing with its door systems and windows. He acknowledges the importance of a dealer that is able to handle the manufacturer’s products and ensure that they’re installed correctly to industry standards and up to local building codes. That’s in addition to his firm’s ability to work with architects and give them exactly what they want in the installation.
As far as educating homebuyers about the benefits of large aluminum products, The Sanders Company gives them what they want as well, whether it’s in the firm’s showrooms in Baltimore, Bethesda, and Annapolis or, more importantly, out in the field. Sanders says it’s becoming more and more common to take clients to job sites to show the scope of large-scale Western Window Systems products.
“On a weekly basis, we’ve got a homeowner out visiting some of our jobsites, and all these homes are unique and custom, so they see the power of the product,” Sanders says. “It’s the best way for them to get a feel of the products and a sense of what’s going on. You’ve got this big glass that is 10 or 12 feet tall, and you can’t always represent that in the showroom.”
It’s this hands-on approach to sales and service that keeps The Sanders Company maintaining its foothold in a market increasingly occupied by manufacturers who operate their own dealerships.
“Most of what we do is typical shoe leather stuff,” Sanders says. “We get out there. We’re in front of the architects; we’re in front of the builders. We grow smart and stay consistent. And we know who we are.”