ActivWall, a Martinsville-based company that designs and manufactures high-quality moving wall, window, and door systems for commercial and residential settings, celebrated the official opening of its showroom with a ribbon cutting on Tuesday, January 16.
President and co-founder Duke Ferrell said the openings of the showroom and design center mark a significant milestone in the company’s history.
“Starting today, this is going to be a place where architects, engineers, builders, and property owners can come and work with our sales and engineering team while designing their projects,” he said.
Ferrell said the idea for the company first came to life on his screen porch during a conversation with his family. “Then later my home office and my garage. A far cry from the showroom, the offices, the manufacturing facility that we have here today.”
In February 2011, Ferrell’s son and co-founder, Carter Ferrell, filed the company’s articles of incorporation with Virginia.
“We started with nothing but two men, an idea, and two potential orders,” Ferrell said. “Our first confirmed order in early 2011 set everything in motion. In those early years, we had very little, but support came from a lot of directions, first from family and friends who believed in our vision.”
Before the company had a real office, Ferrell said the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) allowed ActivWall to use its boardroom and video equipment for organizational meetings.
Another of Ferrell’s favorite examples of unexpected support came from friend Mike Hailey, who attended one of the organizational meetings.
“As luck would have it, I ran into him several weeks later at the historic Dixie Pig Restaurant, now closed. Mike stopped by my table and asked me how things were going, and I was able to tell him that we had just received our first order,” he said.
Ferrell said he also told Hailey he was looking for a place to make the order.
“Mike paused for a minute, and he said, ‘You know, I have some space. It’s not being used right now, that you might be able to use rent-free,’” Ferrell recalled.
He also remembered Hailey saying the last thing a person needs when starting a new business is to have to pay rent.
Ferrell said the company secured the two potential orders and manufactured them both in the space Hailey and his partners made available.
“Our journey led us through another location before we landed here, where I’d hoped to have a showroom one day. Today that vision becomes a reality,” he said.
In 2018, Ferrell said he visited the current space with Andrew Palmer, of Lester Properties, and knew it would be perfect, although there were several issues to address.
A tenant was already using some of the space in the back where the manufacturing operation is today, and the office space also was a little more than was needed at the time, “but I felt like we could eventually grow into it,” he said.
While he envisioned a showroom out front, Ferrell said he also “knew it would likely be years down the road. So, I proposed to Andrew that we rent the office space and part of the manufacturing space alongside their existing tenant. And luckily for a couple of years, a small church ended up renting the space out front, holding services on Sunday mornings.”
Ferrell said Palmer took the proposal to his associates and did a walkthrough before making a decision about having ActivWall as a tenant.
Palmer “said George Lester was with him that day and was supportive of having ActivWall as a tenant, saying we would probably outgrow the space before we knew it,” Ferrell said.
It appears that Lester was correct because the company is already in discussions of adding more space to support its future growth, Ferrell said.
Looking back, Ferrell said the company’s growth has been constant, and it now boasts a workforce of about 27 employees.
“The last quarter was a record quarter. The last month was a record month, both in orders shipped and new orders received. And last year was a record year,” he said.
The company’s innovative products are made in the USA, and shipped nationwide, Ferrell said, adding ActivWall products can be found everywhere in the continental United States, Hawaii, Canada, and other countries.
“Believe it or not, there’s even an ActivWall in a top-secret military base in Africa. The DOD (Department of Defense) contractor that we worked with would only tell me it was located somewhere near the equator, and if he told me more, he’d have to kill me,” he said to laughter from the audience.
Locally, Ferrell said ActivWall products can be found at the First Methodist Church, the new press box at the Mustangs Baseball Field, a new covered patio at the Piedmont Arts Association, and the Bee Hotel in Danville.
Ashley Miller, who works in the Inspection Control department, said everything ActivWall produces is made to order.
“The only exception is we recently started what we call the builder series, and they’re just some standard sizes that have a four-to-six-week turnaround time, but it is still built to order,” she said.
Miller believes orders for residential and commercial are almost equal. She said many of the residential orders also are for homes being renovated.
Marketing Director Jennifer Doss said the company’s largest installment to date is a 40-foot-wide door-window combination in Louisiana.
“All of our products are impact tested for safety and hurricane zones, so they are coastal friendly. We have actually had units that survived a hurricane and came back,” she said, adding the company plans to refurbish the door as part of its customer warranty, which is 10 years for residential and two years for commercial properties.