Mr. James Ellis is not your average salesman. His career in the metal building industry started in 1962. At that time metal buildings were still a new idea waiting to be proved viable. Mr. Ellis, after completing his drafting courses at Houston Community College, went to work as a salesman for a few local metal building companies and quickly found his niche.
Understanding the benefits of using steel frames and panels in building construction, a former colleague sold him on moving to a different company in October of 1968. His colleague was Mr. Jack Murchinson which, you may remember from Jack Sturdivant’s last blog post, you’ll know Mr. Murchinson was a partner when Whirlwind was transitioning from attic fans to metal buildings and components. Mr. Ellis still enjoys telling stories about those early years including ones about the original Sturdivant, Jack’s father, known to all as “Curly.”
Advertising such as this billboard are examples of the creative marketing developed by Mr. Ellis and Mr. Sturdivant.
As Mr. Ellis and the two Jack’s navigated the early years of the metal building industry together, this team thought of creative ways to get the word out about Whirlwind Steel and their newfound capabilities to deliver pre-engineered metal buildings and components to the public. Through the years Mr. Ellis would play a vital role in the spreading awareness of the new upstart, Whirlwind Steel Buildings and Components, throughout Houston and the surrounding areas. While running around the 610 loop when it was newly constructed with a pocket full of loose change to call customers and the office via payphone, Mr. Ellis was becoming a respected name in the metal building industry.
Among many firsts for Mr. Ellis was the original design for Meineke mufflers when they had a single location. He went on to sell many Meineke stores that became so successful that they were able to franchise. Mr. Ellis was able to provide the training center at the original location that provided training to all locations’ employees. Brake Check was another early metal building adaptor that benefitted from Mr. Ellis’ newfound expertise in designing with steel. His bright colors and bold designs helped make these businesses very successful.
And what can Mr. Ellis tell us after 53 years at Whirlwind Steel? “A lot has changed with technology, pricing, importing and exporting,” he said recently, “but one thing that doesn’t change is how me and the company treat customers, and have always done right by them, and as long as that doesn’t change I feel like we’ll be alright.”