After serving in the military, Nacho Villarreal worked for eight years as a plumber in civil service. During that time he worked plenty of nights, weekends and holidays, always faced with the same dilemma.
“It was difficult to get materials on nights and weekends,” he says. So Villarreal did something about it. He started a faucet repair parts service on the side that blossomed into the current Faucet Parts & Plumbing Supplies, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in San Antonio, Texas, this May. The company, which has two locations in San Antonio, also operates the DoPlumb.com ordering site with its “Parts Location, No Frustration” tagline.
“We specialize in faucet repair parts,” Villarreal says. “We don’t try to compete with traditional plumbing supply houses. We have a niche in town for something that is underutilized and we capitalize on that. It’s amazing how this has continued to grow.”
Villarreal’s wife, Patricia, who is retired from the insurance industry and runs the supply-house side of the business, notes the company has “probably done business with every plumber in San Antonio at some point or another.”
“It took us 25 years to get the word out,” she says with a laugh. “We don’t step on the toes of the big companies. We were open on Jan. 2 (the recognized federal holiday for New Year’s Day this year) and had customers calling every 30 or 40 minutes. We have customers who go to the large supply houses and they end up sending them over here.”
Patricia Villarreal recalls one recent customer whose long repair-parts voyage ended at the Faucet Parts counter. “She was at her wit’s end,” she says. “She went to the hardware store and then was sent to a large plumbing distributor who sent her to us. She said she would start with us next time. We hear that all the time.”
Faucet Parts, also a master distributor of American Standard repair parts, does 75% of its business at its brick-and-mortar locations and 25% on the internet with orders being shipped around the world to places such as Canada and England. “We will ship to wherever the customer is,” Patricia Villarreal says.
Nacho Villarreal, who says the ceramic cartridge is the most common repair part asked for, estimates the company has about 20,000 faucet repair parts in its warehouse. “We have everything it takes to rebuild a faucet,” he says. “Faucet repair parts are ever-evolving. The big-box stores are carrying new faucets all the time and you have thousands of different parts out there. We pride ourselves on trying to locate those different parts.”
He’s also proud of the staff he’s assembled, an ingredient he stresses might be as important as any when talking about the company’s quarter-century sustained success in San Antonio. “We have good people on the counter who have been in the business 20 to 30 years and are familiar with these parts,” he says. “We’ll normally hire the repair parts guy from a big supply house who is either newly retired or ready to retire. They have all that knowledge of these repair parts.”
In reflecting on Faucet Parts’ 25 years in business, Patricia Villarreal says the lion’s share of the credit belongs squarely with her husband. “Nacho doesn’t take as much credit as he should,” she says. “In the beginning, he did a lot of research and has bookshelves with hundreds of parts catalogs to prove it. He developed the relationships with the manufacturers and reps. In the beginning we asked manufacturers to give us a chance to see what we could do for them. It’s to the point where they come see us now. Nacho saw the need and went out and found a way to get it done. It’s fulfilling.”
Nacho Villarreal says he’s just getting started. “We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. I see other locations and continued expansion. This is just the beginning.”
This article was originally titled “Finding that niche” in the February 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.