District Safety Products has come a long way from where it was when President Joseph Williams Sr. started the company in 1996. According to Williams, he got into the distribution business as essentially a one-man operation with a personal loan for $10,000. With no office or employees, Williams and his wife would put in long hours, often working late into the night to process the payments to its vendors in the days before electronic transactions were commonplace. 

All that hard work has paid off, and today District Safety Products is a leading distributor of safety products and janitorial supplies throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The company has been honored as Supplier of the Year by Amtrak, and its customer base includes numerous public and private organizations. All along the way, Williams says, the company has overcome the limitations its small size put on it in the beginning as well as the fact that it couldn’t get brand-name products at first. 

After nearly 80 years, Cooney Brothers Inc. may not be the biggest in its market, but it is a recognized leader, President Gerry Cooney says. “We’re counted on by a lot of different customers,” he declares.

“Our mission statement says we really strive to be an indispensable resource to our customers so that we’re valuable to them,” Cooney says. “They don’t want to be without us.”                                 

Based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., Cooney Brothers distributes pipe, valves, fittings and plumbing supplies for industrial and commercial applications. Cooney notes that the company’s roots go back to McArdle & Cooney, which his great-grandfather, William Cooney, co-founded in 1912. 

Cee Kay Supply offers technical expertise and value-added services its customers cannot get from its competitors. “We have three certified welding inspectors and certified welding educators at our headquarters in St. Louis that our customers really see value in,” Marketing Coordinator Andrew Swyers says. “It’s a value for them to utilize our guys if they don’t have the ability to keep someone with that expertise on staff.”

Since 1948, Cee Kay Supply has been supplying gas and welding and cutting equipment to its customers. Today, the company says it is the largest independent supplier in Missouri with seven locations and about 87 employees, many of which have been with the company for more than 20 years, who demonstrate daily its core mission of listening to its customers and providing creative solutions. Of the seven locations, three are located in Illinois, allowing Cee Kay to service a large portion of that state, as well. It boasts a values system that includes integrity, honesty, fairness and a mutual respect for each other and its customers.

After more than 90 years, Cayce Mill Supply has enjoyed longevity in its industry by “taking care of our customers,” Vice President of Sales and Marketing BJ Cayce says. “We make sure we have the products to our customers competitively and when they need them.”

Based in Hopkinsville, Ky., Cayce Mill Supply distributes electrical, plumbing, HVAC, kitchen, bath and custom interior products. Cayce’s father, President Breck Cayce, explains that the company started operations in 1919 as a mill supply house.

“We sold everything from fencing to dynamite,” he says, noting that it moved into the electrical, plumbing and HVAC markets in the 1950s. Today, Cayce Mill Supply operates from a 170,000-square-foot warehouse in Hopkinsville where it sells products such as lighting, plumbing fixtures and kitchen cabinets. The facility also serves as a distribution center to the other locations in western Kentucky.

Action Supply Co. has evolved from humble origins to become a go-to distributor to its home market and beyond. Founded in 1978 by Ken Berke, his brother Stuart and their late parents Murray and Judith Berke, the Margate, Fla.-based company established itself through the hard work of its owners and the support of its suppliers. 

In the company’s early days, Ken Berke would personally pick up copper tubing and other plumbing supplies and fixtures from wholesalers. Berke or his brother personally delivered these fixtures to customers including residential air conditioning installers, many of whom were found by looking through the Yellow Pages. Action Supply also supplied residential plumbing customers with PVC and other piping materials for new home construction projects.

Engineered products and services are a growth area for distributor Wayne Pipe and Supply. These include systems for boilers, pumps, air and steam control systems and compressors. “We have a good, steady market and customers,” Vice President of Engineered Products Rick Bada declares, who has been with the company since 1980.

“When I first started calling on companies in the industry, they had 50 people in the maintenance department,” Bada recalls. “Today, they have five. They don’t need the people. They just call a contractor to come in and do the whole work. It’s changed how our business has gone to market over the years, but that’s how the industry works. For the engineered products, we go and design, draw, lay it out and send it to them, and they can have somebody install it. We don’t do any installation at this point in time. We are looking at that, by partnering with our contractor base.”

Because “off” is not an option for its customers, Ontegrity has become a leader over the past 15 years in site intelligence, services and power solutions. “We are focused on preventing downtime, keeping the power on and working with customers who can’t afford to lose power even though the grid loses power,” Dr. Richard Scott adds.

Founded in 1999 as BatteryCorp, the Framingham, Mass.-based company began by supplying batteries and serving wireless telecommunications – one of the most demanding and indispensable industries. From there, Ontegrity performed battery testing and services to provide its customers with knowledge about their sites and backup power. “That knowledge to date is based on periodic visits to the sites. We are moving to the Internet of Things: real-time monitoring that enables customers to control assets at geographically distributed sites,” Scott says. “We’ve evolved from a battery product supplier and power services company into providing site knowledge and real-time monitoring in the Internet of Things.”

NetPlus Alliance is an attractive partner for distributors because it opens doors and builds relationships between its trusted manufacturers and members. “We are helping small businesses succeed by finding the right supplier for them, which helps them to be more competitive and profitable,” President Jennifer Murphy says. “We want to see businesses in this industry continue to succeed and grow.”

The Lockport, N.Y.-based company was built from Ward Brother’s Mill Supply Co., which was founded by Murphy’s great-great-uncles in 1931. Despite starting the business during the height of the Great Depression, the company had sales of just more than $100,000 in mill supplies, piping products and machining services. Ward Brother’s Mill Supply was passed down from generation to generation until it was sold in 1990.

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