Allied Building Products Corp. is in the business of solving its customers’ problems, CEO Bob Feury Jr. says. “[We] help them out when they’re in a jam,” he explains. “We try to take an active interest in their business and solve their problems.”

That policy has earned the East Rutherford, N.J.-based building materials distributor a loyal customer base, Feury says. “We deal with some of the same customers day in and day out,” he says.

Presenting itself as a company full of “helpful hardware folks,” Ace Hardware wants to be viewed as just another member of consumers’ communities. With thousands of stores across the United States, Ace estimates that 70 percent of the country’s population is within five miles of one of its locations. With its brand in such close proximity to so many consumers, this is a strategic advantage that the company plans to use to the best of its ability.

When Charles Loudermilk started Aaron Rents in 1955, he had reasonable expectations. “I thought if I ever got to $1 million in rental income, I would be on top of the world,” he says.

He never anticipated what was ahead. This year, Aaron Rents system- wide revenues will surpass $1 billion. “That’s beyond my comprehension,” he says.

After attending college and serving in world War II, Joseph Hardy Sr. could very well have kicked off a professional career as a jeweler. After all, his father ran Hardy & Hayes Jewelers, a company Hardy says was the “Tiffany of Pittsburgh” in the 1950s. At 31, he instead wanted to flex his entrepreneurial muscle in a business that would always be in high demand.

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