A small business grows up

The Yost family can sum up their business success in two words: love and trust.

That's what the Yosts have depended on in each other in the more than 40 years since the family patriarch, Albert Yost Sr., began running his home improvement company from a corner in the kitchen of his home.

In the years since, the company has flourished and split into two entities run from the same Route 85 building, Yost Home Improvements Inc. and Yost Manufacturing & Supply Inc.

Along the way, Yost's wife and the couple's five children have worked in one or both of the companies, including two sons who worked alongside their dad until Yost's death 15 years ago.

His two sons, Albert Yost Jr., now 56, and George Yost, 46, took over as partners of the multimillion-dollar companies.

Their mother, 77-year-old Catherine Yost, used to do payroll, office work and sometimes even manufacturing labors, but retired several years ago. She remains a partner in the companies and still comes in most days to run errands and go through the company mail.

Each Yost brother is quick to credit the other with their companies' successes. Albert oversees the five work crews who make up the home improvement company. George Yost oversees the manufacturing side and handles the finances for both companies.

“I don't know of many other families who could do what we did,” says Albert Yost. “I mean, not many fathers and sons could get along like we did. But we really loved our father and we really trust each other. There aren't any big egos here.”

“Albert and I are a team in every sense of the word,” adds George Yost. “My brother trusts me with every aspect of the financial end of the business, and I trust him with the home improvement end of things.”

Catherine Yost says they share the credit equally.

“Their father taught them well,” she says. “As a family we decided never to argue about business things. We worked as a team.”

In fact, when George Yost several years ago invented a tote for snow skis and began selling his patented Hands Free & Ski device, proceeds went back into Yost Manufacturing, not his own personal coffers.

“My name is just on the patent,” he says. “We share everything here. That's just the kind of work ethic we were raised with.”

Albert Yost Sr. was enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and played saxophone in the Coast Guard Band when he started his own home improvement business out of his house in 1961.

He had been working for the Sears home improvement division to supplement his Coast Guard salary when he decided he'd rather do his own jobs.

His first clients were friends and acquaintances he met at places like the local Italian Club or St. Mary's Church.

“By word of mouth, it just started to grow,” George Yost says.

Almost from the first, Albert Yost Jr. would work weekends and summers alongside his dad.

“It wasn't like he made me or anything: I just loved to work,” Yost says.

As soon as he was old enough, about 12 he figures, George Yost joined his older brother and father on jobs.

“All I ever wanted to do was work with my brother and father,” he says. “As soon as I graduated high school I went to work with them full time. I'd work 15 hours a day. I couldn't get enough of it.”

At first, the Yosts ran the business out of the kitchen of their home on Monroe Street, Catherine Yost says. They did all sorts of home improvements, like new kitchens, decks, additions, floors and siding.

By the 1970s, the business had grown large enough that Albert Yost Sr. was able to build an addition to his own home. He built his wife a new kitchen and added a wing to house his business.

Catherine Yost recalls the years she spent making coffee, sometimes even breakfast, for the workers who invaded her home each morning.

“I'd feed them right along with the kids,” she says.

By then the Yosts were specializing in exterior home improvements: seamless vinyl siding installations, gutters and windows.

In 1979, Albert Yost Sr., retired from the business and turned control of the company over to his two sons. He and his wife remained partners in it, however.

Around 1984, dissatisfied with the quality of some of the products they were receiving from suppliers, the Yost brothers began manufacturing their own patented downspout systems. They bought two machines that allowed them to manufacture their own downspouts. At first, they used them in their own home improvement projects, but later began marketing and selling them to other contractors.

“I wanted the materials for my own job, but we couldn't justify the costs for the machines and materials based on (that), so I knew we had to find other customers,” says George Yost.

They tried to get distributors to buy their gutter products, but they were hesistant on taking a chance with a new company, Yost says.

“I remember my father saying 'Just be patient. It takes time to grow a business,'” Yost says. “What really opened up the business is when I invented the Hidden Mole.”

The Mole is a system of hidden hangers that eliminates exposed straps typically used for hanging gutters. Yost Manufacturing makes the hangers and sells them nationally.

“Everywhere I go now I see The Mole,” Yost says.

Today, Yost Manufacturing has about 375 customers nationally. The firm recently signed a contract to sell their gutter products to Alcoa Building Products Inc., a national supplier of home construction materials.

In 1987, however, Albert Yost Sr., succumbed to the cancer he had battled for several years. George Yosts says he is gratified that his father lived long enough to learn that Yost Manufacturing had won a patent for The Mole.

“I was glad about that,” he says.

By the 1980s, the Yost companies had outgrown their Monroe Street site. So, in 1989, the family paid $275,000 for a commercial building at 1018 Route 85. They spent another $100,000 upgrading the site and the building.

Albert and George are currently planning a two-story addition to the building to house their growing manufacturing business and for extra storage space. The two Yost companies combined employ 25 employees, 21 full-time and four part-time.

“We're bursting at the seams here,” says George Yost.

Neither sibling is considering retirement, he adds.

“To this day my brother and I still enjoy it,” he says. “I wake up every morning and can't wait to get in here. This is my life.”
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