Building on a Legacy
Nationwide manufacturer Eklund’s, Inc. crafts complete elevator cabs and custom elevator interiors for both new construction projects and renovations. Its “total elevator cab solutions” include design, manufacturing and installation of luxury, custom-crafted cabs and interiors, and a wide selection of StreamLine standard cab interiors. With customers in the U.S. from coast to coast, its projects range from renovating existing cabs to creating custom glass observation cabs and ornate interiors for new buildings. Its elevator interiors are installed in some of the nation’s most recognizable properties, such as CityCenter in Las Vegas; Trump Tower in Chicago; Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco; Anadarko in Houston; Joule Hotel in Dallas; One Franklin Square in Washington, D.C.; Five Crescent Drive in Philadelphia; and Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Eklund’s often fabricates new cabs and interiors from architects’ specifications. Alternatively, it also offers customers who are starting from the drawing board with guidance in material selection and complete design services. In between, its StreamLine Cab Design Studio (ELEVATOR WORLD, March 2015) provides the opportunity to build virtual standard cab prototypes online using pre-engineered panels and preselected materials. This shortens production schedules and is intended to provide a custom cab look and feel at a standard cab cost (see sidebar).
Eklund’s’ clients include OEMs KONE, Schindler, thyssenkrupp, Otis, Fujitec and Mitsubishi Electric; building owners/property managers; and general contractors. It also regularly assists architects, designers and contractors specify its products, specifically StreamLine, considered its standard cab line. Rick Lockridge, vice president of sales and marketing, explains:
“Eklund’s has already sold and installed several StreamLine cabs, and we are very excited about having this new option that offers a custom look without the custom price tag. Since StreamLine is pre-engineered, lead times for materials, manufacturing and installation are reduced.”
Managing the entire process from concept through installation, Eklund’s’ products are fabricated in-house and installed by its certified Woman Business Enterprise installation partner BCE Specialties. Eklund’s’ corporate headquarters and a manufacturing facility are in Dallas/Fort Worth, with a second manufacturing facility in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. The growing company recently hired staff in several departments, including Sales, Engineering, Manufacturing, Project Management and Field Operations (EW, May 2016). It continues to look for talent. The manufacturer’s business-development representatives are located in and serve the following regions:
- Southern region with corporate/manufacturing facility: Dallas/Fort Worth
- Northeastern region with office and manufacturing facility: Lanham, Maryland (Washington, D.C./Baltimore area)
- Southeastern region: Houston
- Midwestern region: Chicago
- Western region: Portland
Since acquiring a Maryland-based elevator-interior manufacturer’s assets in 2011, Eklund’s’ presence in the Northeast grew significantly, to the point where its 2015 sales performance in the region was its highest. Within the last year, the company has been expanding its presence in southern California, where seasoned representative Janel Durko is taking the lead on business development.
Beth Cunningham, president, feels word of mouth has contributed much to Eklund’s’ longtime upward trend, explaining:
“With many of our customers being elevator manufacturers and prominent purchasers of elevator cabs and interiors, word spreads very quickly when customers have a positive or negative experience on a project. We are fortunate to have very strong relationships with many elevator companies across the U.S. that choose us as their preferred cab-interiors partner.”
In addition to frequenting tradeshows, Eklund’s regularly hosts customer-appreciation events in its largest markets. It sends representatives from its South Dallas/Fort Worth corporate office and manufacturing facility to exhibit at the National Association of Elevator Contractors Exposition each year and consistently attends Building Owners and Managers Association International shows with emphasis on major market locations.
This is not to say the company has not faced challenges over the years. Cunningham cites consistent scheduling of work as its tallest current hurdle. When project schedules get modified due to the work of other trades and/or the general contractor, she explained, work timing can be affected, which can create conflicts with other jobs. Less of a problem was the global economic downturn. When asked about its effects, Cunningham responded that the economic situation made Eklund’s more diversified:
“In general, when the economy is strong, new construction work tends to increase and is a focus. Yet, we consistently pursue modernization work targeted at property owners and building-management companies. These opportunities can be stronger if and when the economy slows.”
The company feels that in the overall business of cab interiors, the biggest challenge is the reduced weight limits
(which vary by manufacturer) of newer OEM elevator systems. While less weight for the elevator system provides greater energy efficiency, it also limits customers in the type of cab interiors they can have applied. Eklund’s works with customers to find lightweight solutions that can meet the desired aesthetic attributes within weight requirements. It is constantly on the lookout for new lightweight materials and works to reengineer its components to shave weight.
History and Future
Eklund’s has been family owned and operated since 1983, when it was founded as a small shop in Grapevine, Texas, by James B. “Jim” Eklund. Prior to founding the company, Eklund had spent his entire adult business career in the elevator cab and entrance business. His vision for Eklund’s was to create a company with customer service and satisfaction as its top priorities. Specialty elevator cabs were among the first orders for the business, which proved to be the beginning of Eklund’s’ market niche in the elevator industry.
Shortly after the company was incorporated, Bradley “Brad” Eklund, Jim’s son, became vice president of production. Cunningham, Jim’s daughter, joined the growing company as vice president of sales in 1984. Jim retired from Eklund’s in 2001 at age 65, and soon afterward, Brad departed from the family business to pursue his own lifelong interests. Jim passed away in December 2012 at the age of 76 (EW, April 2013).
Still family owned and operated, the company is led by Cunningham, who said her father was “one of the pioneers in the elevator-cab specialty trade, whose professional legacy lives on here at Eklund’s.” Jim’s two grandsons, Heath Cunningham and Joseph Eklund, also have management positions within the company. The family is proud of its continued growth in customer base, sales, employees, manufacturing capacity and service capabilities.
In its efforts to constantly grow and evolve, Eklund’s continues to try to improve its systems. All employees routinely participate in evaluating processes and procedures to determine areas of improvement that have the potential to result in better customer service/satisfaction, productivity, waste reduction and more.
Eklund’s, Inc.’s StreamLine standard cab line includes eight pre-engineered passenger cabs, three observation cabs and two freight/service cabs. More than 140 panel finishes, six handrails and seven ceilings are available, with the handrails and ceilings having multiple finish options. There are eight passenger, three observation and two freight/service configuration options. A clip-in installation system enables customer installation or installation by BCE Specialties, Eklund’s’ installation partner, and is available at www.eklunds.com.