MAZE NAILS CELEBRATES 175 YEARS
History meets innovation for the nation's largest producer of specialty nails.
History meets innovation for the nation's largest producer of specialty nails.
Roelif Loveland, the fifth generation president of the Maze Companies, can enumerate a handful of historic events through which the family business has navigated: two world wars, recessions, a Great Depression and even the Civil War.
The Peru, Illinois-based Maze team is celebrating its 175th anniversary as a building products company.
HBSDealer spoke to Loveland about imports, innovation and what it takes to earn a reputation as the nail experts. Here are highlights of the interview.
Generally, what does Maze have to do to stay in business for another 175 years?
We have great products and great people — therefore the key is simply our persistence in spreading the “word” about the many Maze advantages to the next generation of builders and remodelers. It’s our job to let them know that NAILS DO MATTER — and that cheap nails that rust and stain beautiful exterior jobs…or that rust underneath even the best self-sealing shingles
— are no bargain. No responsible homeowner paying significant dollars for lifetime roofing or siding should settle for lousy nails. Too often they just don’t know what the contractor is using — so educating all the players is critical. This really needs to start at the wholesaler and lumberyard level.
You have a history of innovation (threaded nails, hot dip galvanization). How important will innovation be to the continued success of Maze?
Innovation for Maze means keeping a close pulse on the new building materials being introduced to the market — and making sure we have the best nails for applying those products. For example, prefinished siding and trim require highly corrosion-resistant, prefinished nails to match. Maze manufactures hand-driven nails, 20-degree stick nails and 15-degree coil nails in hundreds of colors to match the application preference of the builder… and to keep homeowners happy with the look of their new siding.
No one can look into the future with guaranteed accuracy, but based on what you know about the business, where is innovation most likely to rear its head?
Product design is the factor that seems to most directly affect the nail innovations. For example, vinyl siding with thicker insulation is providing much more efficiency in this time of energy crunch. This requires longer, stronger siding nails — and Maze makes those special siding nails in up to 4-1/2” long.
How are you keeping up with the customers and keeping up with their changing habits and preferences?
Maze is tuned into the needs of dealers and builders by using a team of 40 outside salesmen making daily calls out in the field. It is only by listening to their requests and complaints that we can learn what works and what doesn’t. Maze is also
are considered the “Nail Experts”! —Roelif Loveland, President, Maze Nails
represented at national trade shows throughout the United States so we can not only promote Maze Nails but also keep updated on the newest products and how we can evolve with the industry.
Can you talk about competition? Has it changed over the years, and what are Maze’s sustainable competitive advantages?
The main competition to a huge swath of US manufacturers is the flood of import items coming from China, India and elsewhere. It is ultimately up to builders to demand top-quality Made-In-USA products — but at the same time, Dealers and Wholesalers must make the commitment to have those products in stock and on the shelf. The main Maze Nail advantages are in producing trouble-free products, having a huge inventory and very wide variety of specialty nails at our Peru IL plant — and shipping orders in just a day or two. The brand name is well-known — and the packaging and labeling is top-shelf. Our customers are always very complimentary of the knowledge and experience they receive from our sales team. We are considered the “Nail Experts”!
Why pay more for a Maze nail than a cheap import? Maze has been making nails since the late 1880’s — and has a skill set superior in the industry. We make nails strong (so they don’t bend), Double Hot-Dip Galvanized (so they don’t rust) and with ring and spiral shanks (so they don’t back out). We ship quickly, have durable and attractive boxes, a large sales team to address any issues…and are just plain proud to be the nation’s premier maker of Specialty Nails. We need the support of our loyal customers — old and new — to remain alive and well — and to employ Americans in good jobs here in the United States.
“The brand name is well-known — and the packaging and labeling is top-shelf. Our customers are always very complimentary of the knowledge and experience they receive from our sales team. WeThe 175-year-old company promotes Made-in-USA quality, as well as a diverse assortment of collated and hand-driven nails. Watch the video: The great-great grandson of Samuel Maze shares his thoughts on today’s company.
When Samuel Nesbitt Maze entered the lumber business in 1848 he began an enterprise that would grow and flourish for a century and-a-half and beyond.
An Irish immigrant from Castleblayney, County Monaghan, Maze arrived in the United States in 1836 and was a masonry contractor for several years before deciding to try his hand at the lumber business.
He located his modest yard along bustling Water Street, in the small town of Peru, Illinois, on the banks of the Illinois River. The yard stood just a few hundred yards from the south end of the new Illinois-Michigan Canal. Dug by men and horse power, it was also 1848 when the canal first linked Peru and the Illinois and Mississippi rivers to Lake Michigan.
Maze, had a small barge built, named the Elk, and used mules to haul loads of local grain to Chicago by way of the I-M canal.
Before making the 96-mile journey back to Peru, the Elk was loaded with white pine from huge timber stands in Wisconsin. Upon return it was sold to Samuel Maze’s contractor
friends, farmers, and others who asked him to bring them lumber. Thus the yard was born.
Today the fifth and sixth generation of the Maze family continues to provide quality construction
materials to help build America.
In the late 1800s, the Maze Lumber yard was selling a great many cedar shingle roof jobs. The shingles lasted fine, but the bright steel cut nails that Maze Lumber sold, though they were the best available at the time, just didn’t last very long. The lumberyard at that time being run by Samuel Maze’s son, Walter, bought a usednail machine so they could make their own, higher quality nails from pure zinc strips.
It was fortunate that LaSalle-Peru was also home to M & H Zinc and Illinois Zinc–suppliers of the zinc needed to make the cut cedar shingle nails that the small nail machine produced. Maze Lumber promoted its cedar shingle roof packages far and wide. So the little nail machine now had to run more hours a week to keep up with the growing demand.
As Maze Lumber began selling nails to other lumberyards, the nail machine eventually ran full-time, then it was joined by additional machines as nail orders poured in. So was born the nail division of W.H. Maze Company.
In 1916 Maze engineers designed equipment to Hot-Dip Galvanize steel nails—for a dependable but more economical product. In 1955, equipment was built to Double Hot- Dip Galvanize the nails and business really took off.
Maze Nails was famous for their dependable hand-driven nails, but times change and pneumatic nailers gained widespread acceptance.
In 1996, the SSE division of Maze was established to take quality Maze Nails and collate them into sticks and coils for the hundreds of air-driven tools on the market. Along with collating nails, SSE also packages stainless steel trim nails in over 100 colors.
Without support from the community, a local family owned company cannot thrive. It is equally important for businesses to give back to the communities in which their customers and employees live. Volunteerism and charitable giving have been long-standing values within the Maze Companies. While the specific organizations have changed over the past 175 years, the sentiment has not. Thousands of hours have been donated to charitable causes by Maze
employees over the years. Below are just a few of those stories.
The United Way of Illinois Valley was founded as a local chapter in 1966. According to Julie Sloan, the current UWIV executive director, “The Maze companies have been great supporters of United Way for many years, quite possibly since the very beginning. We have been greatly impacted by their unwavering financial support, volunteerism and leadership via service on our board of directors.”
Maze Co. is a participating member in the
United Way Pacesetter program, meaning that a financial contribution is made at the beginning of every annual campaign drive to kick off the fundraising season. The Maze Co. employees also play a huge part in the initiative, many of whom choose to make pledges to the United Way’s campaign with their paychecks.
Maze Nail employee Kyle Loveland has served on the UWIV board of directors since 2014.
“Our local United Way chapter funds many Illinois Valley agencies that are providing critical services within our community,” said Loveland.
While the agencies fund raise on their own, they also have the peace of mind, knowing that they’ll be receiving consistent monthly contributions from the United Way.
“Our goal is to help our partner agencies operate with more peace of mind and breathing room, knowing that the United Way is working diligently to secure them the funds that are critical to the operations,” said Loveland.
If you visit the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Peru, Illinois, you’ll likely find materials donated by Maze Co. The store specializes in selling building and household materials that are either donated or salvaged, often giving the items a second chance when they might otherwise end up in a landfill.
Over the years, Maze Lumber has donated unsold merchandise, such as decking material, windows, and doors.
“We know that Maze materials are the best you can find. This makes a difference,” said Todd Volker, executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity. “With the Habitat ReStore, our reputation relies heavily on the quality merchandise we source. The Habitat ReStore is being run to generate profits that go back into the community through our house builds and critical house-repair program.”
“The Maze Companies have long been great assets to the Illinois Valley Community,” said Volker. “It’s more than contributions of material and money. It’s also a matter of providing solid leadership top local organizations.
Maze Nails has donated tens of thousands of pounds of nails to Habitat for Humanity projects throughout the country.
Many Illinois Valley classrooms have seen Maze Co. volunteers contributing their knowledge as Junior Achievement educators, including Pete Loveland, Jim Loveland, Arlette Martin, Chadd Kreofsky, Andrew Kreofsky and David Loveland.
According to David Loveland, a 10-year Maze employee, “Volunteering for Junior Achievement has been very rewarding. I have taught many classes from second grade up through high school, and while the material may vary, I always find the students’ enthusiasm inspiring.”
“Since 2006, employees from Maze Co. have been volunteering their time in a total of 47 classrooms impacting more than 700 students. The Junior Achievement mission is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed through lessons in financial capability, work/career readiness and business ownership,” said Monica Telschow of Junior Achievement.
“It’s impactful for a student to see a volunteer from a local company that they may drive past every day or has a friend or family member work at. They look up to these individuals because they can relate to them, and maybe see themselves in that same career or industry when they grow up. It helps them connect what they are learning in the classroom to life after graduation,” said Telschow.
“Our goal is to help our partner agencies operate with more peace of mind and breathing room, knowing that the United Way is working diligently to secure them the funds that are critical to the operations.”
—Kyle Loveland, 6th generation, Maze Nails