CUYAHOGA FALLS, OHIO — The Kaufman name no longer will be associated with Cuyahoga Falls-based Alside Inc.
Donald Kaufman, who has reigned as chief executive officer since 1983, ended his 46-year career by heading into a retirement he calls "my choice."
"The fact is, you don't put a company in peril by putting it in the hands of a 70-year-old CEO," he said.
The company was founded in 1947 by Kaufman's brother, Jerome J. Kaufman, who invented baked-enamel aluminum siding. It was Donald Kaufman's call to move into vinyl siding in 1978, company officials said.
"My brother thought I was crazy," Kaufman said recently. "If we hadn't brought on vinyl siding, we'd be out of business today."
That visionary thinking and his penchant for listening has made Kaufman an effective leader, said Jim Bussman, executive vice president of corporate services and a 29-year Alside veteran.
"Not only was he visionary in doing that, but he was also realistic enough that, ultimately, metal siding had run its course and he made the decision in 1989 to get out of that business," Bussman said.
The manufacturer was the first in its field to own distribution centers, Kaufman said. According to Bussman, the distribution growth under Kaufman remains Alside's strength: In 1972, the company had 19 supply centers; today, it has 80.
Mike Caporale, who stepped in as president last year in preparation for Kaufman's retirement, said the company is positioned for significant growth in several areas, including siding and windows. Additionally, the firm's move into vinyl fencing, decking and railing began under Kaufman in 1993.
"That area has grown by leaps and bounds for us," Kaufman said.
As for what he will do in his retirement, Kaufman said he will not sit at home: He will be teaching classes in area schools for Junior Achievement, reactivating his law license and traveling.
"My heart and my investments are still here," he said of the company. "But this company needed someone to bring a fresh, new approach. I want a new company. I want a tomorrow company.
"I was a man for my time. I think Mike Caporale is a man for his time. We're in a changing business environment. If we don't change, then we're not going to be successful."
According to information from Plastics Custom Research Services of Advance, N.C., Alside consumed 153 million pounds of PVC in 1999. The company placed ninth in extrusion sales among leading siding extruders that year, with $165 million.
The company is owned by Associated Materials Inc. of Dallas, which was formed when William Winspear acquired Alside and two additional firms from U.S. Steel in 1984.