Expansion helps Ramapo Wholesalers make a big splash in the New York/New Jersey market.

From left: Ramapo Wholesalers CFO Fred Haupt, President and founder Michael Schwartz and General Manager Tony Lo Russo have led the company through a major expansion. Photo courtesy of Ramapo Wholesalers.

Whether it’s a Major League Baseball general manager making an aggressive trade at the July 31 deadline or a small plumbing wholesaler with hopes to increase market share, sometimes you have to make a move. That’s exactly what New York/New Jersey-basedRamapo Wholesalersdid in 2007.

Since its inception in 1995, Ramapo Wholesalers - which currently has seven counter locations and three showrooms - has parlayed many successful years of business into an expansion. The expansion set up well, too, as some of Ramapo’s competitors struggled and customers were up for grabs.

“The northern New Jersey marketplace had been impacted by some significant changes,” Ramapo General ManagerTony Lo Russosays. “A major supplier had been experiencing financial difficulties and another leading supplier was acquired and suffered a major disruption to the company. The opportunity for expansion was ideal.”

Since 2007, Ramapo has opened three new locations in northern New Jersey,  (including a new showroom) and relocated another showroom in Rockland County, N.Y.

“These new additions are fully stocked and staffed with experienced industry personnel. To date, all locations have shown excellent results,” Lo Russo says. “The key to Ramapo’s success still remains servicing the small to midsize plumbing contractors.”

According to Lo Russo, plumbing products currently account for 50% of total revenue and 35% comes from hydronics. In 2010, Ramapo made the executive decision to distribute HVAC supplies and in just two years HVAC now accounts for the remaining 15% of total revenue.

“Recently, we began fabricating our own custom sheet metal in house,” Lo Russo says.

Right after Ramapo started its expansion in 2007, the recession hit. Lo Russo believes Ramapo learned many important lessons that it continues to use in its daily business.

“We run our company today much more efficiently and leaner than in the past,” Lo Russo states. “Today everyone understands that at times we all need to wear more than one hat.

“We reacted very quickly as a company when we first saw this economic downturn. We recognized that the old way of doing business was not necessarily going to be the way going forward. Going through these difficult times has certainly taught our company how to scrutinize expenses and adjust overhead accordingly.”

During the economic tumult, vendor relations remained strong as Ramapo expanded its reach. Director of Purchasing Frank McMorrow worked with its existing vendors such as Elkay, Gerber, Delta, Bradford White, Sloan, Insinkerator, Bell & Gossett, Taco, Liberty Pumps and Watts Radiant. The company also has brought on many new lines since 2007.

“We asked many (existing) vendors for either extended terms or additional discounts with the understanding it would take time before realizing turns with our inventory,” McMorrow says.  “We also added several major lines to our product offering in the last five years such as Peerless Boiler, Triangle Tube, Thermosal, Quiet One, Payne, Comfortaire, diversitech, Americh, Grohe, Moen and Bertch vanities, just to name a few.”

Ramapo Wholesalers is able to take stock of its major play in one of the largest U.S. markets. Challenges arose, but in the end, the final product was worth the risk.

“The greatest challenge I found was staffing each location with qualified personnel. Regardless of previous experience there is a transitional period as each employee adapts to a new company culture,” Lo Russo says. “The biggest reward in building a new business is watching the entire development process. There is definitely a self-satisfying factor involved in establishing relationships with new customers. Seeing the overwhelming support we have received has made the effort worthwhile.”