STAR SUPPLY: Designed For Growth
The Star Supply Co., New Haven, CT, a family-owned business founded in 1959, had outgrown its facility. “As our company was growing, we expanded our old location as far out as we could,” says Larry Cohen, current owner and president. “Then we realized it was not worth the effort to expand it any further.”
Cohen consulted with a realtor friend and expressed a willingness to relocate his headquarters and distribution center if two parameters were met: The new facility must be next to a major highway, and it must have ample parking and loading docks.
The move was completed in March 2006. The new building met Cohen's requirements, but it was raw space designed with no offices. So the company hired Bob Footlik, a consultant, to redevelop the warehouse to better suit its operations. It added a second floor to a section of the building with 3,000 sq. ft. for future growth. A state-of-the-art 3,000 sq. ft. training facility was also built on the second floor. Star Supply's new location is 165,000 sq. ft., vs. the 112,000 sq. ft. it had on 1040 State Street.
The new location has a substantially larger counter sales area and its warehouse has 12 loading docks, which enables Star Supply to ship and receive at the same time. The former warehouse had two primary loading docks plus a small one in the back. “We are much more efficient now,” Cohen notes. “We can stage orders and be more organized.”
One dock is at ground level and has a wider door, so a truck can be brought inside.
Star Supply has nine trucks and was shopping for a 10th this summer. “We keep at least one extra vehicle,” Cohen says.
Additional employees were hired for the warehouse so the company could have two crews to maintain a high level of customer service during its relocation, he says.
The size of the new warehouse has enabled the wholesaler to increase its inventory. “We have been a Mitsubishi distributor for six years, but we did not have room to handle all of their new products in our former warehouse,” Cohen says. Now that it has been able to expand its product offerings, the wholesaler has seen its sales increase. For example, its sales of Mitsubishi products have doubled this year because of the broader inventory it can carry, Cohen says.
“We service the state of Connecticut and western Massachusetts from one facility,” Cohen says. “All of our people and inventory are here, under one roof. We feel we can better serve the customer by staying in one location vs. opening a branch. We can get anywhere in Connecticut in one hour and anywhere in Massachusetts in two hours. We pride ourselves on same day or next day service.”
The company has considered opening another branch but has not been able to justify it, he notes. “We can make a better case for adding more trucks and drivers vs. opening another branch.”
The wholesaler predicts 40% growth over the next five years.
“This year we are already 15% above last year in sales,” Cohen notes.
The WAREHOUSEThe new warehouse had “dingy” lighting so Cohen had 26 skylights installed, plus new lighting, most of which is sensor activated. The pipe and ceiling in the warehouse were scraped and painted to further brighten the space, and the floor was refinished.
As Star Supply moves forward with efforts to streamline its operations, it has identified two major future projects: bar-coding and Web entry orders, says Cohen.
Further expansion of the warehouse is possible. There is another 20,000 sq. ft. on the other side of the warehouse wall.
The OFFICEGiven that the average Star Supply employee has been with the company 10 years, Cohen asked for their input on the design of the new office space.
“Every department has been built for expansion,” Cohen says. There is extra space for each department. “The new space has allowed us to add people of quality.”
Besides room for growth, the office has a top-line security surveillance system to ensure security during business and after hours. Cohen's office is equipped with a closed-circuit television mounted on the wall. It projects four views of the company's facilities via security cameras. “I can view one or up to 16 images at a time,” Cohen says. Using his computer, he can zoom in to get a closer look. These images can also be viewed online.
As visitors enter the building, they walk by a large curved wall bearing photos and news clippings that record the history of the company. The current location is the company's third home. It started out at Olive and Water in New Haven in 1959 when founded by Seymour Cohen, Larry Cohen's father. In 1964, the company bought the facility at State Street and Lawrence. Now it has purchased the building on Gando, “our third and last location,” Cohen says. “This is our showcase.” The State Street facility was put up for sale.
Counter SALES AREAThe counter sales area in the new location is about 20% larger than in the old facility, Cohen notes. There is enough space for functioning products that can be demonstrated, such as a variable speed gas furnace, with a state-of-the-art Trane Cleaneffects air cleaner.
Customers had requested that the counter be set up closer to the door so they don't have to walk through the entire place to make their purchase. Now a kitchen has been set up in the back of the counter sales area, to draw people through the space.
Four people are assigned to the counter, seven inside salespeople are stationed in that area and two managers oversee its operation. “We have 13 people in the counter sales area, so when it gets busy, they can help each other,” Cohen says.
Even the counter sales area has a conference room. An area has been designated for night pick-ups.
Focused On The CUSTOMERStar Supply has been assembling a marketing team to work with its customers, helping them develop marketing and advertising programs. “We act as our customers' marketing consultant,” Cohen says. “We can order uniforms, calendars or premium items for them, as well as provide strategic marketing direction to build name awareness and generate leads for our dealers. Anything that will assist their business growth will ultimately help us keep that relationship.”
The company also hosts annual dealers meetings, golf, picnics and trips that help cement relationships with customers. Larry Cohen maintains an open-door policy so customers know they can talk with the owner when they have a problem.
Company INFOStar Supply, 118 Gando Drive, New Haven, CT
Company Web site: www.star-supply.com
Founded in 1959 by Seymour Cohen
Larry Cohen, owner/president
Bob Parsons, senior vice president
Andrea Klein, controller
John Danek, sales manager
Jim Donini, operations manager
Stephanie Benedetto, marketing manager
Larry Cohen's son and daughter - Michelle, a recent college graduate, and Greg, a college junior, also work for the family business.
Counter sales area hours are 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday; 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., Saturday. The company plans to allow customers to come in nights and weekends to pick up their orders.
Star Supply has been a member of HARDI for many years. In January, the wholesaler joined Blue Hawk, a buying cooperative that specializes in heating and air conditioning.
Larry Cohen's wife Peggy is active in HARDI. His mother was a former president of its ladies' group. He and his father both served as trustees for HARDI.