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This September marks Shelving Inc.’s 60th anniversary and Jack Schodowski, our innovative and driven founder, is the reason we’re here today.

We had the honor of chatting with him about why he started this business and how he shaped the company into what it is now.


Beginning a Business


Growing up, Jack watched his father work tirelessly at his coal business and vowed never to own a company.

He began working at Interlake Steel as a manufacturers representative, rising to be top 10 in sales. However, he was surrounded by many people that did not share his motivation to take action and help others.


Jack recalled an afternoon spent with one of the distributor sales people tasked with promoting products. Once they hit an off time, he drove them to Belle Isle for a break. Grabbing a chair and tanning shield from the trunk, they sat there for a few hours.

“After instances like this, I began talking with another guy I worked with about the idea of going into business together.”


Jack couldn’t fight the itch for more fast-paced work with actual customers. At the time, he had three kids with a fourth on the way. People told him he was crazy to think about leaving his current comfortable position.

But after much discussion with his wife, Helen, and trusted family members, Jack decided to take the plunge.


The First Years


There were very few shelving businesses around at this time. With a strong knowledge of shelving and its variety of uses, they set out to provide high-quality storage.

When naming the company, they knew they wanted to keep things simple and landed on Shelving Inc.


Their “headquarters” were a tiny room in a warehouse on Riopell in Detroit. Without professional desks, their workspaces consisted of used doors placed on top of saw horses for legs.

Over time, they moved from location to location – but always stayed in the Detroit area. They gradually acquired more space to store inventory and grow their product offering.


Jack admits they didn’t have much of a business plan when they began. However, they knew their goal: dedicate the time and effort needed to make their customers happy.

“We just worked hard,” Jack said. “We would make calls, sell the product, deliver and even install some of the jobs. We basically did it all from start to finish.”


Shelving Inc.’s Endurance


The business thrived for many years, but began going through times of highs and lows along with the economy. After a while of struggling to cover their expenses, Jack determined that in order for the company to succeed, something needed to change.

Hopeful that he might be the one to turn things around, it was decided that Jack would buy the partner out.

“I wanted to keep going and try to keep Shelving Inc. on its feet. And so this new chapter began,” he said.


A Family Affair


Once his kids were old enough, they all worked at the business doing odd chores – labeling stacks of vendor catalogs or helping in the warehouse on summer breaks.

However, when they became adults and started thinking about potential career paths, Jack always told them to work somewhere else first before making the decision to be a part of the family company.

“I really wanted each of my kids to make their own decisions about what they wanted to do in life.”

Each of them did just that, trying out various avenues. Two of his seven children now have their own business, with the rest choosing Shelving Inc.


Looking Back and Moving Forward


When thinking about the countless jobs Jack worked on, the one that stuck out most (“I’m sure there were others but I’m 91,” he said) was a company that manufactured tail pipes for cars.

After selling a good amount of shelving to them, they were incredibly pleased and continued to order more. They had their installation crew work on jobs at the company’s locations throughout the country. Having a national account at this time was a pretty big deal, so Jack looks back on it proudly.


Now that the second generation of owners have taken the reins, running the company for the last 20 years, Jack’s hope is that they maintain the same spirit he had when it all began: work hard and build strong relationships with customers so they know they can count on Shelving Inc. to get the job done.

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