The Wimsatt family name traces its origins back to the 16th century. The family was of Scot-Irish descent and lived in North Western England. In 1700, members of the family immigrated to the New World to escape religious persecution. They settled in the colony of Maryland. Around 1790, the family moved to Kentucky, roughly ten years after Daniel Boone had cleared the territory for settlers.
Generations later, a young James Wimsatt fell on hard times and could no longer afford to attend the University of Kentucky. Thanks to the auto industry, he, like many other Kentuckians, moved North to Michigan. He soon found himself in the trucking industry hauling coal, and later found a job with the National Association of Credit Management (NACM), where he became aware of the building supply business. During that time, he continued his education and obtained a law degree. In 1936, he and his brothers purchased a warehouse facility in Highland Park from CertainTeed Corporation. Wimsatt Brothers opened its wholesale building supply business on March 17, 1936.
In 1956 the company merged with Mid-States Wholesale which was founded by Daniel Wimsatt. The company remained at its Highland Park location until 1961, when it moved its current corporate headquarters in Wayne. The name was changed to Wimsatt Brothers-Wayne. The property was shared with Archbold Lumber, a retail lumberyard that eventually merged with Wimsatt Brothers-Wayne. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, a business cycle emerged that would follow the UAW’s contractual negotiations with the domestic auto industry; two years of robust business would be followed by a year of caution and uncertainty as new union contracts were negotiated.
Wimsatt had always been known for their residential and commercial roofing materials; the early ‘70s saw the introduction of aluminum and vinyl siding to the product mix as well. Products made with petroleum were no longer “on allocation” after the oil embargos of the mid ‘70s, which allowed Wimsatt to expand considerably its product offerings from many vendors. A pioneer of the “Home Center” concept, Wimsatt doubled its sales in the late ‘70s by expanding its offerings with products such as windows, doors, hardware, tools, paint, electrical and more.
The recession of the early 80s was a time of difficulty for the construction industry, and it was no different at Wimsatt. Sales were down and what the future held was uncertain. In 1983, former store manager and longtime customer Bob Hoffman purchased the company from the Wimsatt family. To carve out a niche during those difficult times, Bob refocused Wimsatt on its wholesale business. Despite the lean economy, new product lines were added, additional salespeople were hired, and the truck fleet was expanded to meet the needs of builders and contractors. These efforts were rewarded, and as the economy recovered, Wimsatt was able to grow. The company doubled its sales from 1982 to 1985, a goal that, when met, was rewarded with a new type of capital investment – the company’s first computer!
Wimsatt was an innovator for more than just its investment in computer technology. The company embraced EPDM roofing early on, and was the first to bring Goodyear (now Versico) to the market. Vinyl replacement windows were introduced in the mid ‘80s. In 1987, Wimsatt was one of the first distributors to offer two-man rooftop delivery of shingles in Michigan. As a result of its growth during the ‘80s, Wimsatt closed out the decade with an exciting milestone: the February of ‘89 grand opening of a second location in Pontiac.
The ‘90s were a period of continued growth both for the Michigan building industry and for Wimsatt Building Materials. In 1992 the Pontiac operation moved to a larger, more conveniently located facility at its current location in Waterford. To respond to increased demand on the east side of Detroit and its surrounding areas, a third location opened in Sterling Heights in February of 1994. In August of 1996, a fourth location opened in Saginaw.
In the late ‘90s and during the beginning of the new century, Wimsatt further expanded its product offerings to introduce builders and remodelers to exciting new opportunities in fiber cement siding, stone veneer, composite lumber, and more. As a result, Wimsatt boasts a complete range of products to outfit the entire exterior of a residential home or commercial building. Profits were invested back into the company in the form of GPS dispatching systems, state-of-the-art new delivery equipment, and large professional showrooms. The company continued to grow; heading north, Wimsatt’s Traverse City branch opened in April of 2001. A sixth location opened in Lansing in September 2006 to serve the builders and contractors of central and western Michigan.
2013 began a period of growth, marked by Wimsatt opening its first location outside of Michigan. The new location in Perrysburg, OH serves the greater Toledo area and Northern Ohio.