Robert-James Sales Inc.

Robert James Sales picRobert-James Sales Inc. maintains the country’s largest stainless steel pipe, valve and fittings inventory. 
By Alan Dorich

After more than 45 years, Robert-James Sales Inc. is known for its focus on service. “We get orders based on our reputation and our commitment to delivering the product,” President Jim Bokor says.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based Robert-James Sales offers its clients corrosion-resistant piping products, including pipes, valves, flanges and fittings. Bokor’s father and uncle, Jim Bokor Sr. and Bob Glidden, started the company in 1972.

Today, Robert-James Sales serves a clientele that largely consists of mechanical contractors, fabricators and OEMs. The younger Bokor says the company has the ability to serve those clients better than its competitors thanks to its inventory.

“We do have the largest stainless steel pipe valve and fitting inventory in the country,” he says, noting that this has earned Robert-James Sales much repeat business.

Many clients, Vice President of Sales Jeff Parrish adds, have worked with the company for more than 40 years. “These companies have had second and third generations work with us,” he says. “We’ve been able to maintain those relationships. We have our first customer’s order hanging in a frame in our lobby in our corporate headquarters and still do business with them today.”

Keeping Close

Bokor grew up in his family’s business. “I’ve been doing this since I can remember,” he says, noting that he learned the business from the bottom up, which included sweeping the floors of Robert-James Sales’ warehouses. “I just didn’t walk in here and my father named me president.”

Over the years, he says, the company’s approach to business has mostly stayed the same. “We’ve got a pretty efficient business model,” Bokor says, but notes that it has been affected by technology. Robert James Sales box

On the positive side, “It has definitely sped things up, as far as the communication,” he says. “But on the negative side, it’s taken the personalities out of it.

“When I first started inside sales, everything was done over the phone,” he recalls. “You would get to know somebody, you would get to see them and put a face with a name. Nowadays, with the Internet and the emails back and forth, there’s little relationship building.”

Robert-James Sales nevertheless manages to maintain strong relationships with its suppliers, he asserts. “I’ll talk to our major mills on a daily basis,” Bokor says.

“Sometimes it’s just small talk and what did you do over the weekend,” he says. “Most of the time it is about business and where’s the market going.”

A Good Place

People like to work at Robert-James Sales, Bokor says.

“I have a saying that ‘If we keep them for two to three years, we have them for life,’” he says.

The company has 10 employees who have been with it for at least 30 years. “New people see that and they see these people who started in the warehouse move into management positions,” he says. “We try to promote from within.”

Bokor is proud of Robert-James Sales. “My father and my uncle laid an extremely solid foundation for the next generation,” he says, noting that his cousin, Bob Glidden III, works in the company’s financial department.

“We have a strong team moving forward for the next 40 years,” Bokor says. “We are an extremely financially sound company in this environment we live in right now. It’s safe to say Robert-James Sales is financially the strongest we have ever been.”

Robert-James Sales will continue to grow, he predicts. “We’re always looking to add possible positions in markets we’re not in,” he says, noting that the company may add new branches. “We usually make the decisions pretty quickly. We just chit-chat about it and we go. It’s not decision by committee here.”

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