Economy Plumbing Supply President John Strong points a customer to the prize table during Economy’s 80th anniversary barbeque. Photo by John McNally/Supply House Times.

By 7 p.m.,John Strong’s voice was hoarse. Working as emcee at Indianapolis-basedEconomy Plumbing Supply and the Homestyle Showrooms'80th anniversary barbeque will do just that.

Strong, the current president of Economy and third-generation owner, commanded the crowd of more than 200 contractors, manufacturers reps, homeowners, friends and family as Economy raffled away a plethora of prizes, including cash, gift cards, Indianapolis Colts tickets, travel vouchers and a flatscreen TV.

Revelers got the chance to meet two Colts’ cheerleaders, play games and talk shop at Economy’s downtown location. The counter and the company’s Homestyle showroom offered extended business hours.

Strong’s father,Herbert Strong Jr., also attended the event to have dinner and see old friends in the industry. John Strong said Economy doesn’t host too many after-hours events, but when the company does, it’s a hit.

“It’s successful and we greatly enjoy meeting the customers - myself especially because I’m not in the trenches as much as I used to be,” Strong told Supply House Times at the event. “This is a better opportunity to build a social relationship with customers.”

Economy has two locations and runs an efficient operation. In the late 1980s, Strong led the initiative to add showrooms and both company locations grew out of that undertaking.

“We aren’t across the state or the nation,” Strong said. “As a small niche wholesaler, we’ve always done a great job with small maintenance and repair parts. Our repair parts have been our backbone in the marketplace. But, with the fashion products, we’ve been able to juggle both simultaneously and we hope that continues.”

Vendors - including BrassCraft, TOTO, Zurn, Zoeller, Delta, Brizo, Elkay, T&S Brass, Sloan, InSinkErator and others - were pleased with the consistent flow of customers during the three hour evening event.

Brian Page, an outside sales representative for Output Sales who featured Sharkbite push-fit valve connectors at Economy’s event, is pleased with how the Indianapolis market is turning positive.

“It’s starting to grow,” Page said. “We’re seeing some new residential home starts.”

Strong joined his family company out of college in the early 1980s and has seen all the boom and bust periods - including the last great recession. But, just as the reps of the territory spoke of, Strong is seeing signs of life for his company.

“It’s been very interesting,” he said. “Things have been tough the last few years, but I see change and I’m encouraged. We’ve got a lot to look forward to. Indianapolis has been a fortunate area. We’re in the metropolitan area and the condos and single-family homes in the downtown area are doing quite well. They don’t have a glut of availability so prices are good.”