When Jeff Palay sits down to watch "The Avengers" movie in May, his focus will be more on the sets than the superheroes. That's because Palay sold—and for lack of an extra driver, personally delivered—7,400 sheets and pieces of plywood, MDF boards, and dimensional lumber, plus a range of other building materials that the filmmakers used to transform Cleveland into their story's battleground. Jeff and twin brother Steve Palay run what originally was a garage-building business started by their father and great uncle in 1956.
Family Affair I was adamant I wasn't going into the business, so I moved out to California after college to work in television. When my wife and I moved back to Cleveland to raise our family, I joined the business. I started at the counter and my father and brother ran the business.
Double Duty Steve and I are co-owners. We're twins. He's left brain and I'm right brain, or vice-versa. He does most of the back-office work, and I'm at the counter. We have a fairly small operation, 20 people between two locations.
Weathering the Slump We were never big into housing—that was maybe 15% or 20% of our business—so when the housing market crashed back in 2009 we lost about one third of sales as a whole. We've stayed consistent because of our emphasis on remodeling and industrials. I think that's going to be our continued direction. Housing won't be a big part of us when it comes back.
Did the Mild Winter Help Sales? Not really, as far as we can tell. Even though we had warm weather overall, you never know how long that's going to last. And for people to do siding jobs, window jobs, putting up room additions, they don't know really if they're going to have good weather or not, so they don't plan it for the winter. If anything, it probably hurt us because we didn't sell as much salt or snow removal equipment like we normally do.
Supplying "The Avengers" We delivered to the set once or twice a day for about a month and a half. A company like that obviously pays. They want to build these sets as quickly as possible and any delay is going to be a huge problem for their shooting schedule. The only hard part of dealing with film is that usually with contractors they say, "Can I get this tomorrow?" and with film usually it's, "When do you need it?" and the answer is, "Well, about two hours ago." It's almost always the same day when they order. But it's a challenge that we really cherished. We were scrambling so we wouldn't disappoint them. If you can meet that demand, you're like gold to them.