For most people, plumbing is something they rarely pay attention to unless it’s not working, and it’s the job of plumbing wholesalers and professionals to ensure that they never have to worry about it. Those professionals, in turn, need to know that the distributors and manufacturer’s representatives they work with will give them nothing to worry about, either. That’s why the plumbing industry in North and South Carolina have turned to Smith & Stevenson for more than 50 years.  

The Charlotte, N.C.-based manufacturer’s representative has been serving the industry since 1963, when Lee Smith and Don Stevenson founded the company. Smith had been representing Oatey Co. and Delta Faucet, while Stevenson represented copper tubing manufacturers as well as Charlotte Pipe and Foundry. The company says its relationships with those three brands continue to this day, and over the years Smith & Stevenson has grown to represent numerous other market-leading brands of plumbing products. 

Many manufacturer’s representatives educate companies about the products their vendors sell. But Pepco promotes and stocks its vendors’ products, as well as referring its customers to distributors. “We’re not a distributor – we are a manufacturer’s representative,” emphasizes President and General Manager Charlie Parham. “In our industry, some manufacturers choose to go to market through buy/sell reps. That is their market strategy, and we help execute on that.”

Other manufacturers may need local warehousing space in an area Pepco serves that none of its distributors do. For example, Pepco distributes pipe insulation in Texas and surrounding states for one manufacturer.

For Johnson & White Sales Co., the secret to standing out from its competitors is straightforward. “I believe it comes back to service and knowledge of our employees, and that goes for everyone from inside sales to quotations and even to the warehouse,” says Rusty Johnson, president and co-founder of the Olathe, Kan.-based manufacturer’s representative. “We have knowledgeable people who have been in the industry for many years.”

Johnson’s business experience extends back to 1972, when he began working for a wholesale plumbing company, initially loading trucks with products at night while attending college during the day. He eventually moved into inside and outside sales roles at the wholesaler until 1985, when he joined a manufacturer’s representative that handled a range of plumbing products.

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