Heating with hot water and steam, which is called hydronics, is a technology that goes back practically to the inception of J. Lorber Co. “We’ve been in business since 1918,” President Steven Lorber relates. “When we started, we were technically roofing and heating supplies, but we’ve always been doing heating.”

J. Lorber Co. distributes plumbing, heating, pipe, valves and fitting products. The heating products it distributes have always used hot water or steam, not forced air. The wide range of hydronics products it distributes can be used in a consumer’s home, for light commercial uses such as at restaurants, for heavy commercial installations such as office buildings or in industrial applications, which could be for an entire refinery. “It’s a lot easier selling one commercial boiler for $100,000 then 100 residential boilers for $1,000,” Lorber points out. “There’s a lot less deliveries.”

Whenever you pass through a doorway, there’s a chance that you’re walking past a product from Hager Cos. “You can’t walk through many door openings without seeing a Hager logo on a hinge,” Director of Marketing Bob Wilkins says.

Based in St. Louis, Hager Cos. offers locks, door controls, exit devices, electronic hardware, hinges, trim and auxiliary products, thresholds, weather stripping products and sliding door hardware. Founder Charles Hager started the company in 1849, after buying a blacksmith’s shop in St. Louis.

An immigrant from Germany, Hager served hunters during the Gold Rush who were making their way through the city, forging wheel rims and hardware for their wagons. “One of the companies’ early successes was making wooden beer cases for Anheuser-Busch,” Wilkins adds.

Family owned electrical distributor Dulles Electric Supply is now in its 30th year in business. The company has made it this long “based on customer service and working hard every day for our customers,” President John Hughes says. 

That is the formula for Dulles Electric Supply’s success and it didn’t happen overnight, Hughes notes; rather, it has taken three decades. “Being an independent these days is becoming rare,” General Manager John Milotte says. “There are many foreign conglomerates. We are one of only two or three independents left in the Washington, D.C. market.”

Fifty years in business is a milestone that few companies are fortunate enough to reach, but for The Hillman Group the fact that it marked its 50th anniversary in 2014 is proof enough that it has found the winning formula for serving the hardware and home improvement industries. And, like the screws and other fasteners that established its reputation, The Hillman Group says its customer service, quality and innovation are what have held the company together and allowed it to grow into the market leader it is today.

The company was established in 1964 with a focus on manufacturing screws and other fasteners for hardware stores. However, as the years rolled on, The Hillman Group evolved into a more rounded and diverse supplier for a broad selection of customers in the hardware and home improvement sectors. “While Hillman was founded as a fastener company, we have branched out into a diverse entity, serving the consumers’ everyday needs with common products for commercial and residential uses, as well as offering service and merchandising aids,” the company says. 

A group of eight friends and business associates got together two decades ago to form Spirit Group and had their sights set on becoming a leading manufacturer’s representative agency. “We began with only eight lines and eight people, but with tremendous product sales experience, strong industry relationships and a unique understanding of the sales dynamics of our industry, [we] have become a leading rep agency in Florida,” the company says.

The Orlando, Fla.-based company started out by focusing mainly on residential and commercial products and its first facility totaled 5,500 square feet of warehouse space, of which 800 square feet was used for offices. Charlotte Pipe, based in Charlotte, N.C., was Spirit Group’s first line and provided it with a foundation and momentum, the company says. “Charlotte Pipe was very important for us,” North Territory Manager Scott Heacox told Supply House Times. “If we didn’t start off with them, I don’t know if we could have taken off like we did. Charlotte Pipe gave us instant credibility.” 

Republic’s business may be centered on the traditional distribution model of supplying equipment and supplies, but the company also is focused on relieving its customers’ stress, President Mark Kilmer says. “We really do listen to our customers about where their pain points are and try to help them,” he says.

Based in Davenport, Iowa, Republic is a wholesale distributor of more than 40,000 electrical and mechanical  products. Founder Joseph Stephen Kimmel Sr. started the company in 1916 as a distributor of Delco Light generators.

The time was right for Kimmel’s business, Kilmer says. “In rural America back in the early 1900s, there was no power,” he explains. “As a Delco franchisee, our dealers installed more than 12,500 Delco generator plants in western Illinois and eastern Iowa.”

Selling something as seemingly simple as a pair of safety glasses can be a complicated decision. The variety of glasses and the conditions they are designed for all need to be taken into consideration. That’s the type of choice that Quad City Safety’s marketing employees are trained to help customers make.

“When you say ‘safety glasses,’ there are thousands of different types, colors, manufacturers and brands,” co-owner Dave White points out. “We’re able to sit down and help figure out what two or three safety glasses you want to offer your employees, and build a custom online catalog around a centralized purchasing manifest.”

Some people get bored with their jobs, but not the staff of Professional Audio Associates (Pro Audio) Inc. Because the company works with leading-edge technology, “Two days are never the same,” President Lewis S. Freedman says. “It makes it more interesting and more fun.”

Based in Woburn, Mass., Pro Audio operates as a distributor and manufacturer’s representative for multiple audio/visual product lines, including LG Electronics, Bose Commercial, JVC Pro and Proficient. Freedman founded the company in 1978, after getting into the industry for personal reasons.

“My stereo got stolen while I was going to college,” he recalls. “It led me into the retail business and [eventually I moved] into distribution.”

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