Introducing the new world headquarters of Universal Windows Direct

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With online shopping taking over the nation, there’s comfort in a brick-and-mortar business that’s putting down even deeper roots. Bill Barr and Mike Strmac are thrilled to throw the doors of their new Universal Windows Direct world headquarters open to the public. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Beth Newcomb

In the 1989 classic Field of Dreams, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) hears a mysterious voice tell him, “If you build it, he will come.” Part of the plot involves Costner’s character interpreting the message as an instruction to construct a baseball field on his farm, insisting to friends and family that people will come and pay to watch games in a cornfield in order to relive their childhood innocence.

When Mike Strmac and Bill Barr, owners of Universal Windows Direct, were searching for a location on which to build their company’s new world headquarters, they also took a risk. Convinced by Mayor Fletcher Berger of Bedford Heights that if they would construct a building where I-480 and I-271 intersect, people would come.

“Part of our vision for UWD was to eventually build a headquarters that not only brought all of our divisions together under one roof, it would also serve as a constant reminder to the people of Northeast Ohio that we’re here to stay,” says Bill. “After 17 years in business, our dream has become a reality.”

Bill and Mike admit to feeling pangs of nervousness when the first shovel hit the ground. For two guys who started out as childhood buddies on a little league team in their native Fairview Park, constructing a 32,000 square foot building where once an abandoned hotel stood was no walk in the park. But last year, after the final plans had been approved and the services of Snavely Construction secured, they did indeed spend nine months securing their foothold in Northeast Ohio’s future—with a building that will serve as more than just a location in which to house their 100-plus local employees. UWD’s new corporate headquarters will revitalize a community, support a school system, and provide better product access to people who opt for a showroom visit instead of in-home product demonstration.

“We committed to Mayor Berger a significant investment in the Bedford Heights school system over the next several years. He took a chance on us and the partnership between the city and UWD has been a huge win for both sides,” Mike shares. “We tore down an abandoned building that used to exist where our new headquarters now lives, injecting fresh energy into this part of Northeast Ohio. And we recognized that our customers wanted a commitment to them and their experience, so we made it a point to include space where all of our products could be displayed and they could come to preview not only the windows that have gotten us to where we are today, but also the doors, siding, roofing, gutters and gutter covers we offer.”

It’s important to note that while their structural commitment to Northeast Ohio might be on the newer side, their business model has always been Buckeye State-centric. “All of our products are made in Ohio by Ohioans,” Bill states. “That’s how it’s always been, and that’s how it will always be. The lifetime warranty we offer has more meaning when customers know they’re getting an Ohio-made product backed by a company with a firm foundation in the area.”

And while staying strong in Northeast Ohio has always been a focus for Mike, Bill and the rest of the UWD team, the guys admit they’ve also been putting down some serious roots in other parts of the country. “Over the last few years we’ve expanded Universal Windows Direct into other markets,” Mike shares. “We now have locations in Indianapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Charlotte and Louisville. What that means to our customers right here in Northeast Ohio is that as we continue to grow, so does our buying power, which means our prices remain competitive and, in some cases, have dropped even lower.”

The new headquarters, Bill says, was designed to make it easier for the UWD team to stay connected to not only new supporters of the brand, but old ones as well. “We had an existing customer stop into the new building the other day just to tell us what a great job we’re doing,” he smiles. “We love it that our support base continues to grow and consider ourselves very fortunate to have people who regularly visit us at shows and now here in our new building to tell us how much we’ve mattered to them over the years.”

As I was gathering information for this story, Bill and Mike were in the process of packing up their offices in Oakwood, where they’ve spent the last 10 years crammed into a building not much bigger than a shoe box. With so many memories made in these little-engine-that-could offices, will they be sorry to leave such humble beginnings?

“In a way, it’s like we’re starting over,” Mike shares. “We’re just using a different ladder.”

Visit the new Universal Windows Direct world headquarters at 24801 Rockside Road, in Bedford Heights. The showroom is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with other times by appointment. The phone numbers are 216-518-8900 or 440-786-1400. The web address is

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