“Charlie” (Charles William Gundlach I) in his Hardware store, 1889

Once a Humble Hardware Store

In 1889 Charles William Gundlach I was the quintessential “entrepreneurial spirit”.  Charles ran his humble tinning and hardware store while living on the second floor, selling canning lids to the local residents and changing out tin flues on their pot belly stoves. His work eventually evolved to changing out entire stoves, and the 129-year trajectory of innovation and growth began for Gundlach Sheet Metal.

Andy Gundlach, Charles’ great-great-grandson, now the Service and Controls Manager, appreciates what it means to be at work and walking on the same floorboards that Charles I did all those years ago. It’s a daily reminder that to run a successful business, you can’t sit still. For Andy and the Gundlach team, there is no status quo. At the time Charles started the business, gas wasn’t even piped to houses, now Gundlach specializes in the installation and repair of heating, air conditioning and ventilation, servicing most makes and models of furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and geothermal units, and is a Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer.

More than Just Home

Challenging the status quo and continuing to grow from the humble hardware store into a leader in residential and commercial HVAC, project management, and sheet metal fabrication has been achievable in Erie County and the City of Sandusky for 129 years. According to Andy, Sandusky has always been their home. Being home is about more than just a home to the employees, it’s about being close to their customers. The work that generations before have done in building up a strong customer base is not taken for granted. Gundlach knows and appreciates each of those customers and is here to service them.

Sandusky’s unique location has also allowed Gundlach to diversify and grow its business. Positioned between the large markets of Toledo and Cleveland, Gundlach has taken on a unique role in the industry – carrying out every aspect of their projects. Gundlach stands out in the industry in that they are truly full-service – from design, budget, engineering, installation, fabrication, start up, controls, and service, they do it all.

Gundlach Sheet Metal Works, Division St, 1932

Adaptation + Acquisition = Success

Gundlach did not become a full-service provider overnight. Adaptation and investment, both financial and functional, have kept pushing Gundlach forward. Charles I passed on his work ethic to the second generation of Gundlach’s in the 1930s when the entrepreneurial foundation for success was further solidified. Charles’ son Carl was a pioneer in writing standards for the industry. His involvement in the Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association helped steer the industry. The Sanduskian’s efforts were recognized and awarded nationwide.

Now under the leadership of the 4th generation of Gundlachs, Roger Gundlach, Andy’s father, the company continues to stay at the forefront of the industry. Parts that in the past were made exclusively by hand are now laid out by computer and cut with automated plasma cutters.

In addition to the many adaptations to changes in the market that Gundlach has made over time, they have solidified their place in the bicentennial city by strategically growing through acquisition. Some highlights of their growth include:

  • 1970s purchased Voltz heating
  • 1980s acquired Shilling AC Heating & Plumbing.
  • 2015 reached an agreement with Otto’s Inc
  • 2016 acquired Windau Plumbing & Heating

Each of these acquisitions have helped expand Gundlach’s portfolio while maintaining quality service to customers and retaining local employees.

4th generation Roger Gundlach and 5th generation Andy Gundlach

6 Generations of Success

With their strategic moves, Gundlach has been able to continually enter new markets and achieve new skill sets. It’s something to be proud of, but they’re just as proud of how they have always been able to seamlessly let the next generation take over and keep charting their growth. Andy remembers what it was like growing up around the shop, sweeping the floors and being allowed to accompany the business leaders to breakfast at Markley’s.

How this company has navigated such a long history of success is indicative of the spirit of this town. Andy reflects on everything the company has been through alongside the City of Sandusky. During the Great Depression, Gundlach had a bench set up in the shop, workers would line the bench, and the first worker in line would be awarded the next job that came in. Gundlach managed through metal rationing during both World Wars. During the most recent recession, they continued operation without any office layoffs. Supporting employees has always been a priority for Gundlach, which recognizes that employees are not only neighbors, but also catalysts for growth. Today Gundlach employs 55 people, and providing for them is a given, just as being active in the community is understood as a significant part of doing business.

A combination of entrepreneurship, adaptation, acquisition, a strong supporting community, and a desire to give back to that community has driven Gundlach into their 6th generation of success – Tyler Gundlach is a Journeyman mechanic, living out the legacy of his great-great-great grandfather Charles I, in the same city that allowed him to succeed. Tyler’s father Terry says, “the community of Sandusky is just like this company, it’s family”.

View this story’s photo gallery here.