Not many independent companies today can boast a 90-year-old history. Such firms are few and far between on the business scene, and becoming more so, as Big Box stores and chains move in on the independent owners.
Founded by Stanley and George Hutchinson, Hamilton Supply Company (later becoming Hamilton Building Supply Company) opened its doors at 65 Klockner Road in Hamilton, still its current address, in 1924. At that time, it sold masonry products, such as cement and lime. As it expanded, it began to include lumber, building materials, and coal.
In 1967, the company was sold to Jesse Coleman, Jr. and his brother Earl (who also owned the Coleman Buick dealership). Later, Earl sold his share to Jesse, and Hamilton continued to expand, adding pre-hung door manufacturing, a custom millwork shop, a commercial door division, new windows and replacement windows, and a tool rental department. There is also now another location in Newtown, Pa.
“We began to concentrate on building materials, lumber, windows, doors, and custom mouldings,” explains current president, CEO, and owner Keith Coleman, who started working at the company on weekends and after school when he was a boy. He came on full-time in 1986.
Strengths and Specialties
“One of the things I remember is that when I started in the business, there were about 14 lumber yards in Mercer County. Now, by and large, they are gone. I grew up in Clarksville in West Windsor, and my dad was a farmer before he bought the business. He just turned 89, and he is still involved. He likes to keep an eye on me!”
“Our strengths and specialties today include windows, exterior and interior doors, and custom millwork. We have a shop on site. We do a lot of custom work, including for Princeton University, and commercial work, and we work with a lot of different contractors. We are very quality-conscious.
“We are really in a unique niche,” continues Mr. Coleman. “The contractors we work with are also quality-conscious, and the Big Box stores don’t have an on-site shop, for example.”
In its mission statement, the company emphasizes three main concepts.
Create and maintain relationships with customer/partners and vendor/partners in order to achieve maximum long-term growth and value for all parties.
Reinforce client relationships through creative problem-solving, efficiency, professionalism, and a broad offering of services that cater to the individual needs of customer/partners.
Develop the industry’s best workforce by developing the potential of each associate and treating them with respect and dignity.
“We have a slogan: ‘Simplify your life,’” adds Mr. Coleman. “We are really good at taking a look at an existing situation and helping the client to get the right products so their expectations are met. There are so many options out there. The thing about our business is that we have so many different products that you need a specialist to help you with that and to understand your best option. We have specialists for cabinetry, windows, doors, decks, etc.
“And our employees on an average have about 20 years experience here. They are very knowledgeable, and they’re a great group.”
“We are also unique in that we have proprietary lines that are not available everywhere. For example, you can’t buy Marvin Windows at Lowe’s or Home Depot. They are a very important line for us.
“We also carry Zuri® decking material, which is offered only through select distributors, and we have been chosen the exclusive distributor of Zuri® in New Jersey.”
Technological developments in recent years have greatly improved the available choices of decking materials, explains Mr. Coleman. These materials look like wood, but offer very easy maintenance.
“After scouring the U.S., I am convinced that Zuri® is the most realistic and durable. It’s part of Royal Blue Products, and they offer a 25-year warranty. We are sticklers for working with companies that are well-backed, and can honor their warranties. Also, the vast majority of our products are made in the U.S.”
He adds that Hamilton Building Supply is part of a cooperative, LMC (Lumberman Merchandising Corporation), which it joined two years ago. “Throughout the country, independent companies are members of this organization, and they combine their efforts to go to manufacturers and make deals for a better price.”
Hamilton Building Supply’s clients run the gamut, including homeowners and contractors, who are dealing with new houses, remodeling or renovating existing houses, and working on historic replicas.
“Princeton is our primary target market, and also some of our clients have homes elsewhere, including in Cape May and Manhattan,” points out Mr. Coleman. “We work with new homes and a lot of existing houses. The average age of houses in Princeton is 40 years, although, of course, some are much older. Everything has a life span. Exterior trim, wood siding, etc. Hardi Siding is popular now. It looks like wood, but has a cement base. It is very durable and also fire-resistant.”
Windows are a major part of the business, with double-hung and casement both popular. “Marvin is a big brand for us, and we also carry Andersen. A lot of glass is coated today, which reduces fading of items inside the house. That is pretty much standard now, and other coatings are also available. There are always new advances in window systems coming along. We carry many styles, including a wonderful Marvin window system with a built-in pleated shade. We also have the Andersen Tilt-Wash replacement window and the Andersen 400 series Tilt-Wash double-hung insert window.
“We do a lot of replacement windows for existing openings,” he continues. “The whole spectrum, from low end vinyl to very high end. Black is very popular for window frames right now. Many color options are available for windows and shutters and in many styles.
“French doors continue to be very popular,” he adds. “We manufacture our own, and also carry Tru Stile. In addition, we have Therma Tru doors and Andersen storm doors, among others. Almost all doors are assembled and pre-hung on-site, greatly reducing turn-around times.”
Kitchens are another area of expertise for Hamilton, and the cabinetry display is impressive. “Kitchens require a lot of time,” points out Mr. Coleman. “The kitchen seems to be the gathering place of the house, and it’s important to know how people use it. Do they have kids? Entertain? Cook a lot? We really cater to the homeowner and their life-style.
“Our cabinetry lines include Mouser (customized) and KraftMaid. These are classic and traditional, and also Euro-style, which is more contemporary.”
Hamilton also offers closet organizing systems, including modular styles with hanging shelves to fit into existing closet openings.
He adds that while Hamilton focuses on high quality products, the company is mindful of a customer’s budget. “Budget is a factor, and we work with people’s budgets. Also, clients often phase in the work. Frequently, for example, they will start with the baby’s room. Also, we don’t charge for delivery, which is unusual today.
“I am thoroughly convinced that at the end of the day, we provide the best overall value and best experience when it comes to purchasing of building products and millwork items for the house. We deliver on value. So many people out there will tell you what they have, and not think about what you need.
“This is a challenging business. We deal with a lot of unique projects, and one of the things that is special about our business is that it brings joy to people. It’s a form of investment for them and a way to enjoy themselves. I am also very pleased to carry on my father’s business and continue the family tradition. That is very important to me.”
Hamilton Building Supply Company is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 4, and by appointment. (609) 587-4020. Website: www.hbsnj.com.