William M. Bird has been delivering the goods since 1865. For 150 years, Bird has been providing its customers with innovative products and expert solutions. Our company’s successes and staying power in an ever-changing marketplace can be attributed to the sustained stewardship and entrepreneurial spirit set forth by our founder, William M. Bird.
Mr. Bird, a Charleston, South Carolina native, established the business in 1865 to supply materials and goods to rebuild the South following the Civil War. From its inception, the company flourished, transporting Southern lumber and naval stores from Savannah and Charleston to Northern ports. On its return voyages, Bird’s schooner carried new inventories of paint, glass, Belgian cement and whale oil.
Bird’s success was not without its challenges. The company’s building was all but destroyed by the Charleston earthquake of 1886. Approximately 40,000-60,000 people in the city were left without homes. Anticipating Charleston’s immediate need for construction supplies, Mr. Bird and his employees opened for business the next day, operating out of a temporary structure. In the face of adversity, Mr. Bird was resolved to come back stronger than ever.
Growth, New Markets and New Leadership
Throughout the early 20th century, Bird continued to expand. In 1914, Mr. Bird incorporated his business and stepped down from the role of President in favor of Henry Welch. At this time, Welch and Mr. Bird’s closest advisors including Edmund Kracke, Simms McDowell and attorney, Ben Hagood became shareholders in the business.
Upon Mr. Bird’s death in 1920, Hagood purchased additional shares from the estate. His son, James Hagood, would later join the business, becoming president in 1932. Among its many enterprises, Bird dealt in turpentine, timber, and sand and gravel distribution. The company seized opportunities of post-Depression Era growth in South Carolina becoming involved in large scale projects. Notably, one of Bird’s family of companies provided the stone needed to line the Santee Cooper Dam.
Later diversification included entry into the concrete pipe, paint, glass, hardware, electrical fixture and flooring industries.
The Flooring Industry
In 1936, Bird began distributing Armstrong floor coverings and building materials. Bird soon became an innovator in the flooring industry, embracing Armstrong’s new developments of cork inlaid floors and selling them across the Southeast.
Fifty years later, Bird adopted groundbreaking products such as Triangle Pacific’s Bruce Engineered Hardwoods, Pergo laminate flooring and MetroFlor’s luxury vinyl tile. Today, the company’s in-house brand, Palmetto Road, represents one of Bird’s newest and fastest growing lines.
The 1980’s brought major – positive – change for Bird. Facing competition from big box stores, President Ben A. Hagood sold some of the company’s entities and consolidated stock. He made flooring a single focus for Bird and led an initiative to expand into the piedmont of South Carolina, North Carolina and eventually the boom-town market of Atlanta, Georgia with the acquisition of George D. Bridges Distributors.
Since then, William M. Bird has grown to become one of the leading floor covering distributors in the Southeast under the leadership of current Chief Executive Officer, D. Maybank Hagood and President, Robert Hagood.
Relationships and Reliability
As Bird evolved over the 20th and early 21st centuries, new branches and distribution centers were opened across the Southeast. These outposts and their related services were a direct response to the needs of our customers and suppliers. From Charleston to Nashville and Mobile to Raleigh, William M. Bird has provided the products customers needed to grow their business. From our beginnings from a single location on East Bay Street in Charleston, SC, William M. Bird and its sister companies today offers 10 locations which include pro shops and three distribution centers.
Strong relationships with suppliers, customers, employees and communities are at the core of Bird’s corporate philosophy. These relationships are built on a foundation of mutual respect, trust and the desire to provide profitable solutions.
Foundation for the Future
As we enter our 150th year of business, Bird remains committed to serving our customers, associates and communities. Our parent company, Southern Diversified Distributors was established in 2003 to provide a corporate structure for Bird along with our family of companies, TranSouth Logistics and Southern Tile Distributors. Technological advances are among our key priorities. We are proud to be an innovator and a leading distributor in online sales.
One hundred and fifty years after our founding, we are using the lessons history has taught us and applying them every day to interactions with our suppliers, customers and employees.
The “golden whale” icon chosen by Mr. Bird symbolizes one of our first products, and remains our company logo. The whale represents quality and value while reminding us that we must continue to bring the best products to market while adapting to continually changing customer needs. We look forward to a bright future and the many challenges, cycles and opportunities a life of service will bring to Bird’s family of companies.