Executive Excellence is a new feature showcasing owners of Arnold’s successful small businesses that have stood the test of time.
Going Strong: Arnold-Based Home Improvements Firm Founded in 1960
St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc.
Now a healthy 81 years old, Al Nothum doesn’t get around as much as he used to. Yet the home improvement company he founded in 1960 keeps serving clients across metro St. Louis from its headquarters at 18 Arnold Tenbrook Road.
“My father visits the office regularly, and he always talks about the business,” says Al Nothum’s son Brad, who today is president of Arnold-based St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc. Now in business for 58 years, the firm provides more products and services than its name implies.
“When my father was 28 he decided he didn’t want to work as an employee any more for a construction company, which he had done for years,” Brad Nothum says. “He wanted to own and operate a home improvement firm to serve his own customers.”
With a pocket full of dreams and creative plans but not much else, Al Nothum hung out a shingle for his new company in south St. Louis and hired two of his friends to work for him.
“Dad started out as a general contractor,” says Brad Nothum. “After a year he began to expand services. The company began getting known for doing different types of home improvements along with siding and guttering. Every year or two Dad would add a new product or service to the company capabilities.”
The company that Al Nothum founded began to grow – slowly. “As I remember,” Brad Nothum recalls, “Dad never did just one thing in particular that immediately prompted a huge spurt of new business, but there were a lot of little ones.”
For example, when Al Nothum began to offer different types of new soffits for sale and installation in residential homes, 100 new customers did not call right away with orders, but a few did. Little by little, the company grew and expanded.
“About the only thing that generates a lot of new business all at once is when a tornado hits the metro area and we get lots of calls for roof and siding repairs,” says Brad Nothum.
“Our business growth has always been slow but steady, and I think that’s the way Dad liked it,” he says. “I don’t think Dad did a lot of advertising over the years except in the Yellow Pages – a lot of our new business came in by referrals and word of mouth, and it still does.
After graduating from Oakville High School in the late 1970s, Brad Nothum worked part time for his Dad – “I was hanging gutters,” he says. Then he enrolled at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. When he earned a degree in business, he joined the company full time in the office, working in sales and operations management.
By then the company was a family affair. Brad Nothum’s mother Betty and his sister Maria worked in administration. His brother Al Nothum, Jr., worked in direct sales for many years; another brother, Tim, worked in installations. Art Nothum, Sr., was the boss. (Al Nothum, Jr., later joined the Missouri Highway Patrol and Tim Nothum later joined Dave Sinclair Dodge.)
“Twenty-five years ago we were not offering all the products and services that we do now, but we offered a lot of them. We had a good business with good customers,” Brad Nothum says. In 1993 the firm bought vacant acreage on a hillside at 18 Tenbrook Road and built its 3,500 sq ft headquarters building overlooking the Tenbrook Industrial Park. Within a few years, however, the U.S. recession of 2007-2009 hit the construction industry. Some family members thought the firm might go belly up.
But not Brad Nothum and his father.
“The recession hit the commercial construction industry really hard,” Brad Nothum recalls. “Those years were tough for our company, probably our toughest, but we got through those tough times. I know that there were people here who worried that we would go out of business, but I wasn’t. Most of the work we did then – and do now – is for residential projects, and the residential market wasn’t as hard hit as commercial construction during the recession. We managed to pull through, thanks to our residential work for clients who wanted to improve the look and quality of their homes,” he says.
“Starting many years ago, we worked on projects valued at $600, but we also have worked on $6,000 projects and $60,000 projects, and everything in between. We respond to marketplace needs and to customer needs, and we do whatever necessary to meet client expectations.”
“I believe that our high quality standards for commitment and customer value originate with the fact that we began as a small, family-owned company,” Brad Nothum asserts. “In the beginning, our company didn’t have much and we served each and every client as if they were our only client. We still feel that way. We work to satisfy our clients’ needs one at a time.”
Today, St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc. has 14 full-time employees, plus six that work part-time. Eight employees are full-time home improvement installers, and three are full-time home improvement sales personnel. “A number of our employees have been with us for many years,” Brad Nothum says. “We generally have excellent relations with our vendors – many of them have served us for years – and they provide us with state-of-the-art residential improvement components.”
“Our headquarters location in Arnold is convenient and central within the greater St. Louis market area that we serve. Arnold is a great place for conducting our business. Today we address a large variety of residential improvements from siding, gutters, windows, and roofing to customized work and architectural sheet metal details,” he says. “People know us because we have been around for a long time and we do great work.”
Brad Nothum and his wife Wendy are the company’s sole owners since they purchased the firm in 2015 from Brad’s father. To learn more about Arnold-based St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc. and the firm’s capabilities, visit its website.
Story by Jeff Dunlap for the City of Arnold Community Link