For decades, the South Coast Shingle Company has been a family affair. A few years after the company was founded in 1946, Sam Riddle came on as bookkeeper. At the time, the roofing material supplier was located on 11th Street near Redondo Avenue.
The company outgrew that facility and moved up to its current home in North Long Beach on South Street near Cherry Avenue in 1963.
“This was out in the boondocks then, all oil property,” said Ross Riddle, 72, Sam’s son and now president and CEO of South Coast Shingle.
Ross and his brother Larry, 68, grew up around the business, going to work with their dad on Saturdays, helping around the yard. In 1968, while attending Long Beach City College and then Cal State Long Beach—ultimately receiving a bachelor’s degree in business management—Ross joined the South Coast team as a full-time employee.
Larry came on board nine years later and is now CFO.
South Coast Shingle sells all things roofing and masonry to contractors and homeowners. Hundreds of choices of shingles and tiles, bricks, stone, gravel and the accessories necessary on the job from protective equipment to ladders and shovels.
The business is tailored toward homeowners, which makes up about two-thirds of business, Ross said, because seasoned roofers and commercial project managers already know what they are looking for. The store is open to the public so they can get one-on-one assistance to learn about more options than a roofing company typically would present to them at their home.
“A roofer doesn’t have time to sit with a homeowner and tell them all the different options. There might be something [the owner] really likes but would never know about,” Ross said. “We walk them through the process, we spend time with them, consult with them and it doesn’t cost them anything.”
When a homeowner decides on the roof they want, the South Coast Shingle team can recommend trusted roofing companies to handle the installation (and removal, if needed). Once the job is ready to begin, South Coast crews deliver the materials using special trucks with conveyor belts that allow them to unload directly onto the roofs of homes and other buildings.
With a second location in Laguna Niguel, the company services all of LA and Orange counties, as well as the Inland Empire, Ross said. Most of South Coast’s business is within a 50-mile radius of its stores, he said, but the company will go as far as they are needed.
Combined, the two locations have about 25 employees and more than 20 pieces of heavy machinery—from large trucks to forklifts.
The Laguna Niguel location is managed by Larry’s son Brandon, one of two of his sons that work for the company. Outside of immediate family, many of South Coast Shingle’s employees have worked for the company for decades.
Jimmy Killeen, 56, has been with the company for 38 years. Before working for South Coast, Killeen said he was making pizzas and attending Long Beach City College. When he dropped out of school, he said his brother, a roofer, told him it was time he got a “real job” and introduced him to Ross.
At first, Killeen was sweeping the yard and doing menial jobs. He worked his way up to driver and then was yard supervisor for about 15 years. Now, after a stint in sales, Killeen is the general manager of the Long Beach store.
“These guys are my family,” Killeen said. “They’re loyal employers and would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.”
Through the years, challenges have arisen for the business, Ross said. Namely, competition in the form of national corporations. He said three companies dominate the roofing supply market, frequently buying up independent stores such as his. These corporations have offered to buy South Coast Shingle but Ross said he has no interest.
“The industry is awesome,” Killeen said. “It’s getting harder and harder just like everything else but we love it.”
Years ago, before corporations and big-box stores moved into Long Beach, South Coast Shingle was one of the top 10 sales tax contributors in the city, Ross said. A $30 million company, South Coast is still thriving today.
“It feels really good,” Ross said of the company making it to its 75th year. “We’re pleased to be as successful as we’ve been and we owe it to our good customers and faithful employees.”