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Companies Of A Century: How Tri-State/Service Has Retrenched For Resilience

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After surviving the Great Depression, the company methodically expanded, careful to stick to its core competencies.

Editor’s Note: Chief Executive is kicking off a new annual tradition this year by celebrating every sizable (over $100 million in annual revenues) standalone company turning 100 in 2023. Check out the rest of this year’s class for tips, insights and, above all else, the inspiration you need to keep going….and going.




HQ: Vienna, West Virginia
Revenue: ~$318 million
Employees: ~500+ 

You just never know where a summer job will lead. Not long after the end of World War I, brothers Harry and Clarence Esbenshade worked a summer gig with a road tarring crew, which led to a job on the road selling roofing materials for the Barrett Company. They quickly identified a need in the market for a specialist in built-up roofing, and in 1923, they set up their own shop in Wheeling, West Virginia. (They called it Tri-State Roofing Company because Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio adjoin in Wheeling.) 

But the brothers had their first brush with disaster when the Great Depression dried up capital expenditure for construction. They held on, doing smaller jobs until 1940, when Tri-State was awarded a major contract for new and re-roofing work at the Naval Ordnance Plant in Charleston, West Virginia. Closed since 1922, it soon became a vital center of wartime production, employing 7,400 workers producing ground-to-air rockets, torpedo flasks and battleship gun barrels. 

Over the next several decades, the company methodically expanded, careful to stick to its core competencies and services that complemented them, and soon had plants in Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida. In 2000, the company began to focus on energy efficiency and a building envelope approach to roofing systems. It also extended its geographic footprint with the addition of offices in Virginia and Florida. 


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