Boak & Sons Reaches 50-Year Milestone

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Caring for people has been the key to the success of Boak & Sons.

“It’s simple,” says Sam Boak, who launched the roofing and insulation contracting firm 50 years ago. “It’s people – hiring the right people and treating them like family. We want to be safe in everything we do. We don’t ever cut a corner and we do the job right.”

Boak started the Austintown-based company in 1974 with a loan he got with the help of his father, a steelworker.

He had met someone in the insulation business, and he liked the products that company offered. So he asked that person to help him get started. Instead of heading to Ohio State University as he had planned, Boak changed direction and went to Youngstown State University.

About five years later, someone working for a competitor convinced him to expand the business into roofing, as well.

Sam Boak, president and founder of Boak & Sons, is celebrating 50 years in business in 2024.

The business has grown many times through the years. Boak started it in a garage with a pickup truck. Later, it expanded to a location on Mahoning Avenue, before moving to the current location on Victoria Road where the warehouse is the length of a football field.

Chris White, vice president of operations, says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that business will improve in 2024.

Although prices are stabilizing, they have not dropped completely to prepandemic levels, says White, and some materials like insulation remain in short supply.

Nevertheless, Boak & Sons’ close connections with suppliers Owens Corning and Johns Manville has made a difference, according to White.

So has the company’s ability to proactively order, filling the warehouse with products they need now or will need soon.

White says investments made in equipment and staff education and safety have been critical.

Boak & Sons hosts Toolbox Talks to teach skills and holds an annual safety day each year in December.

The hiring of John McNally as general counsel and vice president of administration was part of the company’s efforts to create a great work environment.

McNally, an attorney and former Youngstown mayor, says he is a “sounding board” for employees and he gets the chance to help them on a regular basis.

“When I was hired by Sam about two and a half years ago, he said to me I just really need you to be the mayor of the building,” McNally says, noting Sam and Donna Boak have a genuine interest in what is good for every employee.

Boak & Sons recently completed a job in downtown Youngstown at the Front Street location of Olsavsky Jaminet Architects and the Mahoning County Bar Association.

These days, the company specializes in both commercial and residential roofing, as well as sheet metal and insulation work.

Boak sees a big difference in the quality of work his company provides compared to the competition, which is another reason why Boak & Sons has found success not only in Youngstown, but in Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Boak says his company is constantly asked to fix another contractor’s work.

“I’m astounded that people are just afraid to be obstinate and say, ‘Hey why didn’t you do the job right? Get back here and fix it,’” Boak says. “They’ll call us.”

It took long hours to build his business and Boak admits that it is not for everyone. His brother was at one point interested in being the other son in Boak & Sons, but decided early on he wanted to stick with an 8-to-5 job.

“I am a little bit different and I was blessed,” Boak says, adding that the name of the company was never revisited.

Now, after 50 years, the company is ready to celebrate a major milestone.

“Sam is very proud of this company every single day,” McNally says, “and to help him celebrate the 50th will be a great thing for us.”

And even while celebration plans are being made, Boak is talking about a succession plan so he can step away one day.

“We have a great opportunity for a succession plan here and I am very engaged with them,” Boak says. “They are people that have the same moral background that we have, the philosophies of what we’ve done. My job is done here. It’s their turn to take the baton and then make the best of it. And as I slowly work my way out of here someday, I feel that I can walk out tomorrow and not be worried about it.”

Pictured at top: Chris White is vice president of operations and John McNally is general counsel and vice president of administration.