By Ernest Strubhar
I started Better Built Barns in 1993, the year after we moved to Perkins, OK. At that time my wife Ruth and I had four growing sons, Albert (14), Brian (12), Carl (10), and Daniel (7). We were home schooling our children, and I had been earning a living for our family of seven children by writing and editing Spanish Gospel literature. But I wanted to be able to work with my sons. Boys need to learn to work. Fathers need to teach them.
We started the business “on a shoe string.” We bought a few hand tools and a $239 Makita miter saw. I built a large sawhorse, bolted the miter saw on it, and designed an extension table to clamp a stop to. We bought enough lumber for a couple buildings and started cutting to the parts for our first Better Built Barn–right in our yard beside the mobile home we lived in. We had little but enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
From the beginning we had a simple business model: build a top-quality product, sell it for a reasonable price, and provide good customer service by keeping our word every time. With God’s help, it worked. Little by little we built a business.
But we needed a way to deliver our product. I found a ½ ton Chevy pickup that a neighbor had for sale and an old tilt trailer that a farmer had built to haul his tractor on. It wasn’t really designed for delivering buildings, but we adapted it and made it work.
And we were in business.
By 1996 we had enough money to build a 40’x64′ shop. What a boost! We were able to work out of the weather. (Both wind and rain were real problems when we painted.) And we could start buying materials in quantity to reduce our costs.
For around 10 years we had a family company. Then Albert went to Nicaragua to teach school in the jungles where my old friend, Pablo Yoder, was pioneering a missionary church plant. (The story of his early years in Nicaragua is told in his book Angels Over Waslala.) Albert ended up marrying a Nicaraguan lady. They have 3 children now and still live in Nicaragua where he now serves as a self-supporting missionary pastor.
One by one the rest of the boys grew up and left home too. Today I am providing opportunity for two other fathers to work with their sons. Maybe some day I’ll have a grandson ready to take over the business!
In 2006 we restructured the company into a partnership. In 2007 we added 3200 square feet to our shop.
Currently we employ 4 or 5 men in the shop. Jeremiah Snodgrass is the shop foreman. He has two sons who often work with him, much like I worked with my sons in the early years.
Milton Plett runs our delivery trucks. With our 2000 International tractor and specially designed delivery trailer we can deliver buildings up to 16′ wide and 40′ long.
Jeremy Linzey is the face of the company in the office. He also often brings one of his five sons to help him. This gives them opportunity to learn customer relationships and they help him keep up with the work load.
Today we still work hard to provide a top quality product at a reasonable price. We still look for the best materials available–#1 treated 4″x6″ skids, “Standard and Better” Doug Fir framing lumber, Smart Panel siding, 30-year shingles, Benjamin Moore Paint. And we work hard to maintain old-fashioned craftsmanship. Every building shows our attention to detail.
Our Loft Barns maintain their top-seller rating year after year. Our buildings provide more head room than our competitors–6′ 8″ under the loft–and more room in our lofts. We use plywood decking in our lofts, supported by 2x6s. They just have to be Better Built.
We also have a line of Portable Cabins/Offices. We price a ready-to-finish shell, but we can also custom design and finish the interior.
Whatever you are looking for, we work hard to please you. “The more you look, the better we look!”