Graber Post Buildings Inc.

Craftsmanship sometimes is considered a value that is long gone from modern companies, but in the heart of Amish country, it still survives and prospers. That is where Graber Post Buildings Inc. has been located since 1973. The company’s largely Amish workforce in Indiana’s Daviess County still provide that craftsmanship in their production of the company’s post buildings.

Inside the company’s 8.5 acres that are under roof, Graber Post produces buildings for 125 national wholesale customers in 25 states and Canada. Its employees erect buildings within 100 miles of its plant. “Another thing that has become pretty big for us in the past three to four years has been reroof projects on houses as well as other buildings, and that has really been growing for us, because people see the advantage in a metal roof over the asphalt,” Executive Vice President Don Graber emphasizes. “That has grown considerably for us.”

Graber Post Buildings has a sister plant in Versailles, Mo., that President Glen Graber bought. Previously named Martin Metal LLC, the company sold Graber buildings. Now as Graber Post Buildings, it also manufactures portions of the buildings and is enabling the company to obtain business from as far west as Colorado.

“Their business has just grown in leaps and bounds since we made that purchase a few years ago,” Director of Marketing Keith Doades asserts. “It’s a nice situation for us because it gives us an extension of our own company in another part of the United States.”

Building Uses

“We manufacture and distribute every piece of material needed for a post frame structure or metal roofing project,” Doades insists. “Our complex includes a custom manufacturing facility. We have a new showroom and office facility. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and can put up a small building yourself, you can call us and we can deliver it to you. A lot of folks will pick the materials up. We have a hardware store right here where they could pick up any accessory items or ancillary items to get the job done.”

The uses to which metal post buildings are put include agriculture, equipment and machine sheds, poultry, airplane hangars, churches – just about any use. For instance, Graber says when poultry prices are good, the market is good for poultry buildings.

“It just kind of follows the demand,” he says. “Farmers have done well the last couple of years, and so farmers are spending money with us. We’d like for other people to make money, because when they make money, they’ll probably be buying something from us. We like it when other people make money.”

Doades thinks the sky is the limit for post building applications. “The number of applications of our post frame buildings is too numerous to count,” Doades emphasizes. “It could be something as small as just a little lean-to to cover up a pile of wood for a customer. It could be something that could be a new garage, or it could be a storage shed or an outbuilding. It could be a community center, a new church or it could be a commercial building or something as simple as a pole barn for storage and residential use.

“We have more and more people that seem to be getting back into livestock and horses for hobbies,” Doades notes.

“Equestrian buildings are some things that are fairly popular in different parts of the state and country, but in terms of the number of applications and uses, they would almost number the stars in the sky.”

Quick Service

Graber Post Buildings became vertically integrated to serve its customers better. Doades says the company is unique in that it is a national company that handles every item a customer needs for a post frame structure or a metal roofing project.

 “When it comes to service, we feel like we have set a standard a lot of people have had to follow in order to hold onto their customer,” Graber insists.

“A lot of the things we’re doing we’ve done out of necessity, because we could not get the service that we needed. The big thing was to get these deliveries in a timely manner. In a lot of the type of construction we are involved with, you can’t wait two to three weeks for a shipment – you need it now. So that’s where we really come through for the customers.”

The company can produce some buildings in as little as three or four days in various sizes, Graber maintains. 

“We don’t have a standard-sized building, but each person that calls in, we custom-size it and design each building for the customer,” Graber explains. “There’s no such thing as an odd-sized building for us.”

Graber’s in-house drafting staff can assemble plans for buildings, and outside engineers are consulted when necessary. The company plans to hire an in-house engineer in the future. “For public access buildings, then the whole project has to be mainly overseen by a certified engineer, where they follow the job from start to finish,” Graber points out.

“Every truss that’s built is built to engineering specifications,” Graber emphasizes. “The same with those posts. All those posts we manufacture, they’re certified, and so we need to know something about the building, the height of the sidewalls and the spacing of the post.” Also needed is the required wind load and roof loading. “The quality of our product is as good as the best,” he insists. “Probably not everybody can say that theirs is equal to the best, but we are.”

Roll-forming Competitors

Companies that roll-form steel supplied on coils are prevalent throughout Graber’s sales area. “There’s upwards of a dozen in the state of Kentucky alone – that’s just south of us, and we still supply customers in that state,” Graber points out. “There’s a lot of those all throughout the Midwest – some bigger, some smaller. We actually don’t feel threatened by anybody that does it, because we feel that if we can’t do as good or better than anybody else, then we need to clean up our act.”

Competition from other countries is being felt in the materials markets, such as price increases for steel and lumber that necessitate Graber Post Buildings to raise its prices. “Like everybody else, you can’t sell something for less than what you have to pay for it,” Graber points out. “We try to be sure that all our customers have the opportunity to get one last order in before the price increase if they so choose. You treat the customers the way you would like to be treated if you were on the other end.”

Lumber prices may increase this summer, Graber thinks. “A lot of lumber is being exported from Canada over to China is what I’ve been hearing, so that naturally makes a little bit more of a shortage,” he reports. “What they like to export is the high-end grade, so it’s getting more and more difficult – you have to pay more of a premium all the time to get the better grade.”

Lower quality lumber has more knots in it, and sometimes the edges of planks still have bark on them. Southern pine from southern states and spruce from Canada is used by Graber. “Southern pine is more dense – it’s a harder wood, which has more strength,” he notes.

The company is overcoming the loss of quality in wood supplies by laminating its own beams from 2- by 6-inch planks. “You piece them together to make a post so you can see what the laminated post looks like and be able to get better quality lumber into this post,” Graber notes. “The engineers know more for certain what they have to work with as far as strength in the post.”

Slowly Built Up

The family-owned Graber Post Buildings was founded by Glen Graber in 1973. “When my brother Glen started out, very early on I went to work with him in the company,” Graber recalls.

“We were putting up buildings for other people that sold buildings, and eventually Glen discovered that he could sell the building – we could pick up the supplies from different suppliers locally to build the building – and the people would buy a building from him just as well as from some more established company,” he continues.

Because the roll-formed metal for the buildings had to be obtained from some distance away in Greenfield, Ind., neighbors wanting the metal for roofing, siding or a farm shed would ask Graber to bring it back for them.

“So that kind of led us into supplying metal to other people as well as our own buildings, and then it just grew from there out of necessity,” Graber remembers.

The same basic situation also happened with trusses. “The time came when we couldn’t get trusses in a timely manner because people were getting too far behind, and so we went into truss manufacturing, and that led to supplying trusses to other people as well,” Graber recounts. Finally, the company switched metal suppliers a few times but ended up doing its own roll-forming.

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