Chris Fasano’s path to Waterbury, Connecticut-based PHCP-PVF distributor Torrco involves the courtroom — in a good way.
While still in college, Fasano, who did his undergrad work at Villanova and studied law at Syracuse University College of Law, worked at Torrco before starting a two-year stint as a litigator. Fasano then found his way back to the now 170-employee, 14-branch distributor that also features six design centers and a pair of distribution centers, operating in three states.
“When I joined Torrco in 2002, Joel Becker (Torrco CEO, and Fasano’s father-in-law) felt strongly that I learn the business from the ground up,” says Fasano, who is married to Becker’s daughter, Emily (Chris and Emily are the proud parents of Gabe, Jake and Ben). So I began in the warehouse in New Haven and moved my way through positions through the years to where I am today.”
Becker jokes that Fasano started at Torrco with the burden of being the first of the fourth generation of family owners to join the company, “and carried the additional curse of being a son-in-law,” says Fasano, whose wife and sister-in-law, Molly Becker Lemle, also work in the company. “Chris got no special treatment, and since his first day has worked almost every job in the company.”
Becker says Fasano initially found his calling in sales. “Although schooled as a lawyer, he found his true passion in sales,” he says. “The sales department is the ideal place to train. Chris became head of sales and had numerous branches, branch managers and sales personnel working for him. His reports found him a fair, empathetic and likeable leader, and he earned the respect and friendship of his reports. Over the years, Chris has grown into an excellent executive. He manages by objective with individual and department goals feeding into the company’s annual goals. He has a strong team managing sales, operations, purchasing and HR. Under his leadership, Torrco has thrived. The company is well-positioned for many years to come.”
Fasano became Torrco’s president in 2016, and is about to take the reins as the American Supply Association’s 52nd president (and 53rd person to hold the post). Fasano becomes the third recent ASA president with a family member who held the post previously. Becker was ASA president in 2007. They join the Herb Strong (1996)-John Strong (2014) Economy Plumbing Supply father-son duo, and the Randy Tice (1991)-Scott Weaver (2012) APR Supply father-in-law/son-in-law combo.
Navigating through a pandemic
Fasano labels the current COVID-19-fueled business environment as challenging, but stresses Torrco has its eyes wide open when it comes to employees and customers, which has helped in coming out on the right side of things.
“Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York deemed construction distributors as essential businesses from the beginning, so we never shut down,” he explains. “We made modifications to how we did business, such as counter will-calls left outside and design centers closed to retail traffic. We always stressed the safety of our employees and customers before all else. That drove our decision-making. Our employees and customers respected that position and I never received a call to the contrary.”
Fasano adds New York and the New England region were hit particularly hard, “probably because of the population density as well as the metropolitan nature of the region,” he says. “Luckily, our state and local governments imposed some strict regulations and that helped mitigate an already difficult situation.”
Fasano says Torrco has spent plenty of time over the years getting its house in order so to speak — an exercise he feels will pay big dividends in these unique times.
“We spent many years getting our operations/logistics in order, so now we have the opportunity to stay at the forefront of what we need to continue our journey to the next level,” he says. “Now, we are making a conscious effort to grow our employees. That is what we want to separate us form others. Most companies’ typical response to what makes them a good company is ‘my employees,’ but few can articulate not only ‘why,’ but also what they are doing to make their employees their differentiator.”
Leading the ASA charge
Fasano admits in the beginning he got involved with ASA because of expectations, but that quickly changed. “Over the years, I got independently involved because of the networking and then the benchmarking and all the things that makes ASA such a value for any wholesale distributor,” he says. “But the essence of our culture at Torrco is that we give back to our communities and our industry. And that is a big piece. The most fun for me is when I get to be with people and take what I learn and use it to make Torrco a better company. And that can be from what I learn from employees, vendors and customers. With a company our size, a small change can have a big impact.”
Becker is thrilled to see Fasano pilot ASA in the coming year. “I can only comment on how important a milestone it was for me during my term,” he says. “I know he is excited about his term and I am excited for him.”
Fasano says his goal as ASA president is to keep the association’s momentum going. “We have so much on our plate and are doing so many great things,” he says. “I am not sure I want to throw too much more on that plate, so my goal is to continue us on our path and really to grow the engagement of the ‘checkbook’ members. Many companies pay to belong to ASA, but many don’t reap the full benefit. And they should. And the organization benefits from that. More engagement increases our networking pool and increases the info for our benchmarking and fuels all the new things we are working on.”
Fasano labels ASA’s progress over the last decade as “incredible.”
“To think 10 years ago we were working on updating the Product Pro books for the Education Foundation,” he says. “Now, we are in Washington with a lobbyist, working on tools to help members attract great talent and develop them in their own professional journey. It’s remarkable.”