FAIRBANKS — The husband and wife team of John and Sue Ellison encountered a construction material they knew would work in Fairbanks when they were a newlywed couple working to build a house for Sue’s parents in Wisconsin in 1991.
The material was a type of steel siding made by Fargo, North Dakota company ABC Seamless. It can be cut and formed from large rolls at the job site to fit the measurements of the building, meaning there’s no need for seams along the length of a piece of siding, said John Ellison. With no seams, there are fewer issues with the material expanding and contracting in the heat and cold.
“I thought it would be a great fit for Alaska because of the durability of galvanized steel,” he said. “There are a lot of products that are brought up and don’t necessarily work here very well.”
Another advantage of steel siding is that it doesn’t require maintenance. The siding material is coated in either a PVC or Teflon-like material available in 32 colors. It never has to be repainted, so customers should be sure that they like the color before they have it installed, John said.
“We’re limited on time nowadays,” Sue said. “A lot of our customers are people that are busy, and/or they’ve gotten to an age that they don’t want to maintain any more. They just want to put something on that they don’t have to deal with.”
Both John and Sue had backgrounds that helped prepare them to start a business in the home remodel industry. John had worked in logging and construction in Illinois and Wisconsin. Sue had done carpentry and bookkeeping in Fairbanks.
In 1995, they started ABC Inc., originally known as ABC Seamless. Today the business still installs siding and gutters made by ABC Seamless. But their business quickly expanded beyond siding installation because their first customer wanted them to install a window in addition to putting up siding. Today, the biggest component of their business is interior home remodels. The business does bathrooms, kitchens, full home remodels, and some new home construction and commercial building work. Much of their work focuses on improving efficiency though improvements like installing doors and windows, adding insulation and improving ventilation.
“I think a lot of people are realizing now it’s very expensive to build new,” Sue said. “They are remodeling their homes.”
The focus on interior remodeling allows the business to keep a year-round workforce that doesn’t drop off as much in the winter as much as other parts of the construction industry in Alaska. In the summer the year-round staff of about a dozen grows by five or six with the addition of two outdoor work crews. The gutter crew can install new steel gutters around a medium-sized house in less than a day. The company does about 150 gutter jobs a year.
The business has grown from the Ellison home, to an ATCO unit, to their current location, a remodeled former Texaco warehouse measuring 10,000 square feet in the railroad industrial neighborhood off Phillips Field Road near Illinois Street. The space contains an office, a showroom, and a metal shop and warehouse for storing and working with the rolls of steel siding. There’s also an automotive shop for working on the company vehicles, and a wood shop, which is used to build window jambs and other custom jobs.
The couple attributes much of their growth to doing work that lasts and gets them repeat customers and referrals.
“Especially in Fairbanks, because it’s a small town community, reputation is pretty important,” John said. “We want to be able to run into people in the grocery store and not have to hide from them.”
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.