Maki History and the Maki Story

Walter Maki - founder Maki Building Centers
Walter Maki
left – in the Navy WWII
right – later years

Founded in the 40s

Maki Building Centers was started by Walter Maki in 1949.   It is a family business to this day with Maki family members actively involved including current company President Glenn Maki and  now also the third generation.

No one knows the exact moment when the “building spark” first hit Walter Maki.    But family and friends all agree that Walter Maki loved to build.  Even as a child he and some friends built a raft – which promptly sank in fast moving water.   Walter Maki served our country in WWII in the US Navy as a Radio Operator aboard the USS Coffer and returned to the area to begin his career.


Starting at the Bottom and the Top at the Same Time

At 21, Mr. Maki didn’t know much but he learned quickly.    Walter Maki started at the bottom in the roofing industry working at the TOP of many buildings perfecting his craft as a roofer.   Once he learned the process, his analytical mind had him thinking of how to do it better.    A man of consummate integrity, Mr. Maki had an inner desire to do the very best for each customer.    Perhaps the entrepreneurial spirit that was developing called from within as he challenged his supervisors who were satisfied with the status quo and simple job completion.   This “why just do it when you can do it well” attitude created inevitable conflicts with his supervisors and eventually Mr. Maki realized his true potential would be realized and his frustrations eliminated only if he worked for himself.   It was also at this time that Walter Maki learned one of life’s most important lessons:  the importance of balancing work and family life and he did so amazingly, later not only keeping his “eye on the ball” at work, but helping his sons play ball as a Little League Baseball coach.     He still had fun with his friends and liked to fish, hunt, and travel.

The Employee Becomes the Boss

In the late 1940s, Mr Maki started his proud legacy by going in to the roofing business on his own.   He built great roofs and soon his business thrived and he hired numerous employees.   Almost as a natural progression, he decided at first do do a few jobs not only replacing roofs at the top of a dwelling, but also replacing the sides with vinyl siding.    Soon Maki was also in the Vinyl Siding business, was successful, and added more employees. Known for his crazy antics at  home, Walter could not leave well enough alone at work either:  Even though energy (oil heat) was dirt cheap in those days, Maki didn’t like the idea of all that heat just going out the wall, literally!  So he decided to do one better and insulate prior to the installation of siding.    Little did he know that this seemingly simple thought would save future families thousands of dollars as they bought these homes somewhere down the road and could never figure out why they were using much less oil than their neighbors.    With today’s modern instruments, you could probably detect his jobs by looking for the ones with much less air leakage.     Did he later spill the beans to his son Glenn Maki and is that why under the SWS moniker MAKI now makes some of the most energy efficient and highest quality windows in the world?

A Contractor Is Born

The word got around and soon Mr. Maki progressed to a full-fledged contractor adding porch building to his repertoire and gaining a great reputation in the commercial construction arena.    He built this impeccable reputation by using good building materials, gaining referrals by simply doing the jobs better, and managing to hire the very best employees.    He was fortunate to win contracts for various projects based on “prevailing rates.” Over time, however, this created an unforeseen problem as his more than 60 workers wanted to earn higher wages all the time, eventually becoming unionized and putting financial pressure on the operation.   Another change was in the offing.

A Man’s Word is His Bond

Realizing his passion and true calling was now in the materials end of the building industry, Walter Maki made a decision to sell building materials.   He established an instant customer base with his former contracting employees by making an unusual agreement only on a handshake.  He’d pass on the work to his former foremen as long as they’d buy materials from him.   It was a win-win situation as they knew his passion for quality and he knew they wanted to keep happy the customers which they had just acquired.     Now the man who had built that raft as a child could finally float the boat and MAKI Building Centers began, first out of a barn at Mr. Maki’s home and then in the 1960s out of the Lunenburg location which is still the site of MAKI Building Centers in Lunenburg today.  (Sterling location was acquired and the Gardner location including manufacturing was built later.)  The original customers went on to create successful businesses in their own right and MAKI has been fortunate to do business with subsequent generations and has been pleased and honored to receive many referrals over the years.

From Home Center to Building Center

First known as MAKI Home Center, MAKI became known as MAKI Building Centers to reflect its core strength and mission as a supplier of superior building materials and components for many different types of buildings.  Over the years, that same desire to use better materials led to MAKI making doors and windows in Gardner MA under the SWS label and subsequently adding a mill shop, steel fabrication, fencing manufacturing, and more.  In 2016, Top Notch Truss was added at the Gardner manufacturing location.

Moving Forward

The ongoing challenges in the building industry have been complicated by a desire to make more and more energy efficient components.    Current company President Glenn Maki (son of founder Walter Maki) has continued the legacy of staying ahead of the curve, with a desire to do better and make better than what is required by code.  MAKI wants the buildings constructed from its materials to have long useful lives.

Many of the employees involved in the construction of the Gardner facility are still with MAKI today.   There’s a certain pride among the employees who are happy to  be working with a company which has standards and at its fundamental core wants things to be done right.

Employees Empowered

Employees are empowered to make sure customers are satisfied and this powerful and positive company ethic is revealed in the cases where there is a product problem and MAKI bends over backwards to make it right.     Employees are encouraged to think OUT OF THE BOX.   In some ways, MAKI is like the Google of the building industry.   Not satisfied with just ordinary, there’s almost a childlike “glee” evident among the staff when  an SWS window tests even more efficient and sturdy than last year.     From the very beginning, the founder and the family members who have come after along with the staff recognize that customers are the lifeblood which sustains and nurtures the company.

More Than Just a Staff

MAKI has many long-term employees.     MAKI not only looks for mechanical aptitude, but also seeks out life aptitude to try to create a good fit.   MAKI employees must be competent, forward-thinking, open to change, and above all, have a genuine desire to please and enjoy the ultimate success of making a customer happy so he/she will return and refer others.  An ideal MAKI employee sees a glass which is half full and adds positive, contagious energy  to the day which others experience.   Staff members tend to complement each other and this environment seems to have created a magical formula for productivity.  Outsiders notice and comment on this positive vibe which MAKI is fortunate to have.

Small Enough to Move Quickly

As a family-owned company, MAKI is small enough to move forward quickly when changes occur in the marketplace.   MAKI wants to be in front of product changes and improvements and frequently exceeds industry standards in its window and door manufacturing.    By being in front of the future, MAKI creates a situation where the life expectancy of its products exceeds the norm – a longer lasting product is a greater value for the customer.     MAKI is proud to design and build products which often set the industry standard by incorporating features which enhance performance and increase life expectancy and is confident that its founder who started at both the bottom and the top would be pleased that the company has continued in the spirit of his legacy by striving to provide the best customer experience possible.

Better Products a Plus

Many ask, what is the secret to MAKI’s success?  How can I duplicate it?  No corporate spies are necessary, no company espionage is needed.   The MAKI formula is OPEN SOURCE, but its content is so simple it is elusive to most:   To have within your spiritual heart the desire to strive for excellence in products sold to customers with a driven goal of providing the best quality possible in product selection, manufacturing, and building even when the end user might never notice the difference until longevity or performance exceeds the norm sometimes many years down the road.   With Integrity of Process driving the train,  customers who are glad to have bought MAKI tell others and drive cash register results the old-fashioned way with good stuff making for happy tracks in time.     For example, MAKI uses stainless steel screws over galvanized screws in the windows it manufactures because they simply last longer.   That’s just the way we think!  We don’t try to save a few pennies here or there because we don’t feel it is the right way to think or the right way to do things.  We don’t scimp. Our employees know this and you will find they have a tremendous sense of pride in making our products.

Good Products are Affordable

Some ask, so how is MAKI price competitive on its windows, doors, and other products while maintaining quality?    The answer and formula again is so simple it is elusive to most.   Companies who focus solely on price have lower quality products and more returns which increases the real cost of manufacturing the product.   Manufacturing can’t be as efficient because compromises have to be made for inferior materials.   When you use “the good stuff” like MAKI does, manufacturing is more efficient, quality control costs are minimized, returns are almost non-existent, and almost 100% of the product made can be sold.  MAKI seeks out and insists on higher quality Lumber and other building materials from its wholesale suppliers.   The result is  fantastic products at  competitive prices with a higher percentage of unsolicited customer referrals contributing to  “FREE” advertising which again in the grand scheme of things lowers overall costs of doing business.

The Future

The future is making more products and further improving the existing line.  MAKI has well over 130 employees at its Maki Building Centers in Gardner, Lunenburg, and Sterling and SWS Manufacturing facilities in Gardner MA.   MAKI is grateful to its customers who have sustained the company over the years and pledges to be true to its mission of a continual strive for excellence.  Thank you.    We would be honored to have your business.