Noah Garson didn’t intend to get into the family plumbing and heating wholesale business.
His father, Murray, and uncle, Irvin, started Garson Plumbing Supplies in 1947 after growing tired of working at the post office. They went to the local library and researched possible careers and found the plumbing supply field to be the most desirable.
“My dad was an attorney and my uncle was a physical therapist and they worked at the post office,” he says. “They felt they would never get anywhere unless they owned their own business.”
When his father and uncle decided to sell the business in the late 1970s, Garson’s conscience got the best him. “I didn’t want to be responsible for them not selling,” he says. “I waited until they couldn’t sell it and then asked for a job thinking I would hate it. I loved it. I was amazed how much I loved being there.”
Garson took over in 1980 and grew the business into one that eventually would span five lots in the Norwood section of the Bronx in New York and provide master distribution services for more than 100 manufacturers’ product lines.
But the company’s run as the oldest family-owned business in Norwood came to an end in June when it closed its doors after 65 years. The 57-year-old Garson recently was approached by a private developer about purchasing his expansive property. The city is in the midst of rezoning certain neighborhoods for mixed use. Garson’s area was rezoned last March.
“The neighborhood being mixed use made my property more valuable,” he says. “I owned almost an entire block. Developers came to me and I agreed to sell. I still had a very successful business. This is my opportunity. I’d be dumb if I didn’t take it. I’m not exactly retirement age but by the time I would want to sell, everything around me will probably be sold. They always say the first and last people to sell make the most money. I didn’t want to be the last.”
Garson Plumbing Supplies, which held a final auction in late June and was slated to turn over property ownership sometime this month, won’t be completely out of sight, out of mind. Garson has come to an agreement with Howard and Warren Frankel, the owners of Central Plumbing Specialties, to transition as much of his customer base as possible over to the brothers’ multiple branch and showroom locations throughout New York City, including the Bronx.
“I’ll be able to reference their old bills and get the customers acclimated to Central and Central acclimated to the customers,” says Garson, who will be a consultant of sorts for Central.
“A lot of competitors called and asked if I would do something with them. I picked Central because I felt it would have not just what my customers were used to, but it would have more. They have the materials my customers would use and the materials I would never be able to offer and they have four locations. This will allow me to still stay in the industry. Plus, I like Howard and Warren and I trust them.”
Garson admits he still has those “Why am I doing this?” moments but is looking forward to what the future holds.
“This was my identity,” he says. “I’ve been here 40 years. I’ve watched people’s kids grow up and become licensed plumbers and now I see their kids. I’m going to have to recreate myself in some way. I have great health and I am in good shape. My whole life is being changed around, which I think is exciting. It’s important to take chances.”
Garson is most proud of the strong relationships he established with customers and employees alike. Prior to closing, Garson found all interested employees new jobs with his plumbing supply friends/competitors.
“One person worked for me for 30 years and another for 20 years,” he says. “They all had good health-care and pension plans. I was able to help these people in their lives. They were my family. This was a mom-and-pop store. That’s my story.”
And it’s a story that has a happy ending.