Ken Hendricks leaves behind a thriving business, a loving family, and an honored legacy that will last for generations. And as leaders in the building materials trade mourn his loss, they also celebrate Hendricks’ life and remember how he influenced the roofing industry and touched their lives.

Ken Hendricks

Ken Hendricks leaves behind a thriving business, a loving family, and an honored legacy that will last for generations. And as leaders in the building materials trade mourn his loss, they also celebrate Hendricks’ life and remember how he influenced the roofing industry and touched their lives.

Hendricks, the founder and chief executive officer of ABC Supply Co. Inc., headquartered in Beloit, Wis., passed away on Dec. 21, 2007. He was 66.

Dave Harrison, chief marketing officer for GAF Materials Corp., said when you think of Ken Hendricks you think of a world-class leader.

“When I think of Ken, I focus in on four things,” Harrison said. “First, he was a leader with great vision. His leadership focused not on what is but rather creating for the future. Second, Ken was incredibly effective strategically. He wanted to make things better for the contractor. He was focused on the core principles of helping the contractor.”

“Third, Ken was extremely efficient in bringing together his team,” Harrison continued. “He had the discipline to bring in a competitive team to run a very efficient operation. Four, I think of his sustainability in creating a great business. You need the equilibrium of the contractor, customer, vendor, shareholder, and make sure all are happy. Ken achieved equilibrium among that group, and leaves behind a world-class company and world-class legacy. To be world-class, which very few achieve, you need that equilibrium, and he understood that.”

Chris Salazar, vice president of sales and marketing for Karnak Corp., said he met Ken Hendricks 15 years ago when ABC Supply was growing. “In the early days when Ken was growing ABC, he used to hold presentations at the NRCA and talk about his future,” Salazar said. “He had an ability, an energy that was contagious.”

Salazar said Hendricks always had dreams of a better ABC Supply. “He envisioned a drive-through distribution center where contractors could drive their trucks through and all the tools they needed would be ready,” Salazar said. “He envisioned a restaurant at the distribution center where contractors could get something to eat while their supplies were being loaded. That way there was no time being wasted. He talked about it so enthusiastically - about what distribution could be in the business.”

“Ken had the ability to envision things that weren’t there yet,” Salazar continued. “Just the warmth in which he treated the people he worked with. To achieve that level of success and be so approachable was what really impressed me the most. He was always thinking of the roofer, which speaks volumes about how he built his business.”

Tommy Knappich, director of sales for Johns Manville, called Hendricks “the icon on the distribution side.”

“Ken molded and was the pacesetter for what you see today as the modern-day roofing distributor,” Knappich said. “It was a fragmented industry before he came around. He built this national distribution network that was a model and template for many others to follow.”

“The roofing supply groups and Specs of the world, the Beacons, they really took the cue from Ken as to what he achieved and accomplished,” Knappich continued. “Ken was the model at setting the benchmark. It was always a professional business relationship.”

Stephen McNally, vice president of sales and marketing for TAMKO Building Products, said Hendricks represented true entrepreneurship. "His successs came from his vision and great work ethic,” McNally said. "He made a tremendous contribution to the building materials industry, and he will be greatly missed, but his dreams and vision will live on through ABC Supply Company."

Pastor Steve Huff of the Divine Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hartland, Wis., issued an uplifting eulogy at Hendricks’ funeral in December and chose to use the roofing industry as the backbone of the tribute. “Every time someone would talk about his life, they talked about roofers,” Pastor Huff said. “The roofers were what mattered most to Ken besides his family. He loved life.”

Ongoing Legacy

Hendricks was born Sept. 8, 1941, in Janesville, Wis. He grew up there as the son of a roofer and worked side-by-side with his father, learning about the business firsthand. In an interview with Roofing Contractor last year, Hendricks cited his father as his biggest inspiration. “A roofing contractor is treated in society as some sort of second-class citizen,” said Hendricks. “I truly grew up with that feeling, and I saw the way people treated my dad, who I had so much respect for. As I grew up, throughout my entire life, I’ve wanted to change that perception. That’s been the driving force behind ABC Supply.”

Hendricks went on to inspire many others. “There are two men in my life that molded me into the person I am today: my father and Ken Hendricks,” said Pat Keeney, ABC Supply branch manager in Minneapolis. “Ken had a vision of being the largest roofing wholesaler in the United States. And he did it. He could walk into a building and see things I could never see. He could see far beyond what the majority of us could.”

Keeney said some people thought Hendricks would be a “flash in the pan” when he first started ABC Supply. “He proved everybody wrong,” Keeney said. “He achieved his dream of being the largest national distributor in America, and far exceeded those dreams. Everything he told me over the years, he accomplished. He did what he said he would. Ken was a man with great passion for the industry.”

That passion helped ABC Supply reach approximately $3 billion in annual sales in just 25 years and helped land the company on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s Largest Private Companies. Today, with 6,000 associates and 390 locations in 46 states and the District of Columbia, ABC Supply is the largest wholesale roofing distributor in the United States and one of the nation’s largest distributors of siding, windows and other select exterior building products.

“Ken was a trusted friend and partner who exemplified hard work, dedication and self-respect,” said Peter Dachowski, president and CEO of CertainTeed Corp. “Ken was a true pioneer whose hard work and contributions to the building materials industry are deeply appreciated by all of us. We will all miss him tremendously and know that ABC will carry on his legacy.”

“Ken was a true pioneer in the roofing industry who revolutionized the way that we think about distribution today,” said Sheree Bargabos, president, Roofing and Asphalt Division of Owens Corning. “Most importantly, he’ll be remembered as a builder of people, both personally and professionally.”

“More than anything, Ken was known for his passion for his people, promoting his people from within,” said Keith Lowe, director of sales for IKO. “He was a pioneer who had one of the biggest impacts on the roofing industry in the last 20 years.”