Feature, V1I1

We Just Want to Keep Building Sheds

Zook talks about his goats at home. He also has a donkey, some turkeys, and a couple chickens. Then there’s his lawn to mow, a garden, a dog and a cat, and a wife, Mary (not necessarily in that order).

That’s the life he enjoys—that, and being successful in the shed-building industry as the founder and partner of Stoltzfus Structures in Atglen, Pennsylvania. “There was a lot of learning experiences with employees and whatever else goes with business and here we are forty years later,” Zook says.

He makes it sound simple, but it has taken hard work, family, and faith for Zook and Stoltzfus Structures to make it over four decades.


Zook got his start in building structures at Liberty Homes, working with a man named Ben Stoltzfus. Stoltzfus would work at Liberty until about 2 p.m. and then go home and make sheds. By 1973, he was so busy that he quit the company and went out on his own making sheds.

In 1975, Stoltzfus approached 28-year-old Zook to come make sheds with him. “He did that in his spare time. Then he made another one and sold that one and that’s how the barn business got started,” says Zook. “He built a new house and put up a little house and started making sheds. Then in the spring of ’75, he said something to me about starting working for him.”

Things changed that summer when Stoltzfus, who had five boys at home, decided he wanted to farm. Stoltzfus wanted to sell the business and offered it to the three men working for him.

“One of the fellows wasn’t interested, and it was between me and the other fellow,” Zook says. “My wife said, no, she didn’t want to go into a partnership. It’s either we buy it or let the other fellow have it. I offered it to him, but he didn’t think he could buy or want it at the time so we decided to buy it.”

In September 1975, Zook put a deposit on the business and took over on January 2, 1976. “It’s been sheds ever since,” Zook says.

Family Ties

It has been sheds ever since, but there has been another constant in Zook’s business: family.

Gideon Zook has been taking care of his shed business for forty years. It started with his wife advising him on the business back in 1975. Today, Zook works with his four sons in the office: Dave, Jonathan, Matthew, and Mark.

Zook and all four sons are partners in the business. Gideon is the founder, and Dave is an advisor. Jonathan is the general manager, while Matthew is dispatcher and Mark is a drafter.

“We work together, and we just have a good relationship,” Zook says. “We want to keep on making sheds. Sheds and garages and gazebos and pavilions and pool houses and pergolas.”

Dave Zook agrees that the five of them have a good relationship and work well together.

“We have a lot of fun here in the office,” Dave says. Gideon Zook has been taking care of his shed business for forty years.


Gideon Zook (center) has partnered with his sons (left to right) Jonathan, Mark, Matthew, and Dave in Stoltzfus Structures.

“We are fortunate to have the four brothers work all in the same office and we all get along. We realize that that’s not the norm, so we don’t take it for granted.”

While Zook enjoys working with his sons, he knows that he can count on them to run the business. He gets into the office about 6 a.m. every day, but he can leave whenever he wants.

“My job is to order the lumber, unload the lumber trucks, pay all the bills, payroll, do some maintenance out in the shop. I guess I kind of like oversee a lot of it,” says Zook. “But then I delegate it out to the boys and they take care of a lot of the computer things and dispatch. They’ve taken a lot of responsibility off of my shoulders.”

The Business

As Zook says, the business of Stoltzfus Structures is making sheds and other outdoor structures. Working hard, making a quality product, has attracted more and more customers over the years.

“In the ’80s we had a lot of retail customers coming to the store and a lot of people just ordered on the phone. We sold a lot through advertising in newspapers,” says Zook.

Sales and delivery were big challenges at that time. Stoltzfus Structures had a lot of retail customers and not a lot of dealer sheds. Retail customers purchased sheds from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and New York.

It was a challenge, but Zook sold the sheds and got them delivered.

“Now, it’s a lot of Internet,” says Zook. “At that time, we didn’t have Internet, and people would call or come and order sheds. It was nothing new to sell 50, 80 sheds a week at that time.”

Part of the business’ success has been being on the right side of the home-buying trend.

“This industry and the product we sell is a part of the American Dream,” says Dave. “With home ownership comes, what’s the common thing you see in the backyard? A shed or a gazebo or something like that. Being on the right side of that trend has been a big deal. We’ve been at the right place at the right time.”

While Zook and his business have been in the right place at the right time, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t had to adapt to changes. One such change, as Zook mentioned, has been the Internet. Today, more and more people are willing to purchase something like a shed online.

Another change has been customization.

“For the first twenty-eight years, it was just like standard items. In the winter time we’d make 100 to 150 storage sheds ahead of time,” Zook says. “But it’s so customized we don’t make a lot of sheds ahead of time. We try and make parts like shutters and different things like that, but you just can’t work ahead so much because it’s so custom.”

Stoltzfus Structures has been operating on a commercial property for the past eleven years

Stoltzfus Structures has been operating on a commercial property for the past eleven years.

Through it all, Zook has adapted and continues to produce a quality product for his customers.

A Matter of Faith

Besides family, another major reason for Stoltzfus Structure’s hard work and customer satisfaction is faith. If the Zook family says they’re going to do something, they get it done.

“Our business is based off of integrity,” says Jonathan Zook. “That’s a huge part of what we do, and that’s how we feel we can portray our faith and be a witness to the community and our customers—by having an integrity-based, steady performance.”

As a business, Stoltzfus Structures has a list of key points to follow. First is to provide their customers with great service and to strive to meet their needs. Another is to provide an outstanding product at a reasonable price and to provide a product that exceeds their expectations. “Another we focus on is to allow our employees to provide for their families. And then most important is to honor and glorify God in all that we do,” says Dave.

First-time customers might have reservations about being able to do business with honor and integrity, but sometimes the Zook’s do more to honor and glorify God when things go wrong.

“Let’s say a deal doesn’t go well, like something gets damaged on the property when you’re delivering a shed. How we react to that situation probably speaks louder to the customer than when everything goes well,” Jonathan says.
Overall, Zook is doing something right. For the first twenty-eight years of the company, they made sheds on the same property. For the past eleven years, they’ve been working on a commercial property five miles down the road.

But what really matters to Zook is being with his family—and his goats and chickens and garden. “I guess my passion was just to make a living at first. It’s been a journey, but it was a good journey,” says Zook. “I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.”

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