A few weeks ago, DWM editor Tara Taffera had the unique opportunity to interview Charles Loewen, CEO of Loewen Windows. Although the company is based in Steinbach, Manitoba, 75 percent of its business is in the United States, and it is currently taking advantage of the slower market to strengthen its business in areas such as the Southeast. Following are a few excerpts from the article. The full interview will appear in DWM’s November issue.

Q: Tell me a little about your start at Loewen. Did you always want to join the family business?
A: No. I was a liberal arts major studying philosophy and history and had little intention of joining the business. I did work there summers and weekends when I was younger and enjoyed that, but it wasn’t until my early 20s that I became fascinated with the business for many reasons. I enjoy the fact that Loewen serves the community and creates jobs. We are a very large business in a very small town. I also realized that I could do more than just make money.

Q: Tell me about how the current state of the housing market has affected Loewen. I’m interested to know if it has had much of an impact on you as it has other companies given the fact that you serve the high-end market, which is still relatively strong.
A: You’re right. It hasn’t affected us nearly as much as we serve the higher-end market. At the end of the first quarter we were down less than 10 percent but that is no where near the impact that some companies have had that serve other markets.

We are feeling more competitive pressure, though. Companies are bidding for projects that would not have earlier when we were in the boom. But these companies have lower price points than our products and they don’t have the brand value.

Q: Tell me about future expansion plans you may have.
A: We have clearly mapped out where our opportunities are-there are areas where we have no dealers. Our business model is strongly identified with independent dealers who have strong local reputations for service and strong relationships with architects.

In the boom years, we withheld taking on new dealers as growth is tough to manage. Now that the market is leveling off there are opportunities to move into new areas such as Florida. We’re looking for what we like to call A-dealers.

Our high-end customers are looking for distinction and a refined fit and finish. They want a unique buying experience and our dealers provide that best.

Q: Your website says that one of your goals is to be the world’s leading supplier of luxury doors and windows. How are you faring in terms of reaching that goal?
A: I’ll just say this. Once a person was asked, “Are you a Christian and he said, “Ask my neighbor.”

Q: You said people are talking more about triple glazing. Do you think this is due to the ENERGY STAR® proposals?
A: It could be. The ENERGY STAR program is a good response to how to save more energy and be more environmentally sustainable. I believe we’re at the tail-end of a second green wave. The first was in the late 70s and early 80s. I don’t think people realize that the building industry is the greatest low hanging fruit. The building sector wastes more energy than even transportation and most people think it’s the latter but that’s not the case.

Q: Where do you think the door and window industry as a whole stands in terms of being environmentally responsible?
A: Far be it from me to advise or critique them. We have great respect for our competitors. We have a really great industry and I know the companies to be made up of principled, ethical people. We have tough but fair competition. All of them are probably smarter than I am.

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