The 2014 Supply House Times Premier 150 features companies throughout North America ranging from the national heavyweights to the smaller one- and two-location firms.
New York City-based New York Plumbing Supply is one of those smaller supply houses with its one current location in Manhattan. But the 12-employee company is far from small when it comes to the progress it has made in recent years.
New York Plumbing Supply, which checked in just out of the 2014 top 150 rankings at No. 156, combines veteran leadership with an unwavering commitment to service, reliability and efficiency with its customers, which include some of the largest construction firms in the ultra-competitive New York City landscape.
New York Plumbing Supply is the creation of Derek Price, a third-generation business owner with more than two decades of industry experience. Price, the company’s president and CEO, worked for Bayport, N.Y.-based Blackman Plumbing Supply for 15 years, starting in 1989 in the warehouse. He later moved to the counter before eventually shifting to sales and then up to branch manager (he managed a Blackman branch for five years).
Price retired from Blackman in 2004 to enter the ministry where he’s currently the pastor at Long Island-based Bethel Christian Church. He started a small business in 2008 and from there purchased NY Plumbing Supply on New Year’s Eve 2008. The company incorporated and rebranded as New York Plumbing Wholesale and Supply and launched in 2009.
Fellow industry veteran Sean O’Connor is Price’s top executive. The 43-year-old O’Connor has 30 years of industry experience. He started working at Astoria, N.Y.-based Three Way Plumbing Supply (mentored by owner Peter Tirado) when he was 13. At age 19, he joined Albertson, N.Y.-based manufacturers rep Dellon Sales (named Supply House Times’ Manufacturers Representative of the Year, Specification Category, in 2002, as well as in Supply House Times’ sister publications Plumbing & Mechanical (2008) and pme (2010)).
O’Connor enjoyed a 22-year run at Dellon, assisting owner Scott Dellon in growing the company into one of the most successful rep firms in the industry. He later logged a two-year stint with Brooklyn-based Solco Plumbing Supply before joining Price.
“I’ve known Derek for more than 20 years,” O’Connor says. “Teaming up with Derek was a no-brainer. Our experience and knowledge of the industry creates the synergy we need to grow the business.”
Fueling rapid growth
NYPS carries a wide variety of products, ranging from bathroom fixtures to pipe, valves and fittings. The company currently operates out of a 3,500-sq.-ft.
headquarters location in Manhattan and a nearby 2,000-sq.-ft. warehouse. Plans are underway to open a second 25,000-sq.-ft. Bronx location (with the ability to expand that property in the future).
“We don’t concentrate on any one niche market,” Price says. “We try to carry a little of everything to accommodate our customers. If by chance we don’t have something, we’ll do whatever it takes to get it.”
NYPS sells to a wide-breadth of customers, including some of the industry’s largest contractors. “We deal with both union and nonunion companies of all sizes. Regardless of the size, we treat them all with the same respect, support and service,” O’Connor says. “Derek started out being an over-the-counter supply house catering to jobbing/repair and alteration-type customers. The company has a broader initiative today — using its relationships with the bigger contractors to increase market share.”
Price and NYPS have been aided in recent times by the company’s Minority Business Enterprises status. Price explains both New York City and New York state have minority participation goals that require construction companies and subcontractors to set aside a certain percentage of the job and engage in business with a Minority/Women-Owned Certified Business.
“When a contractor is awarded a job that has minority goals, the city and state want to know how that company is going to fulfill those requirements,” Price says. “Most of them fulfill it by purchasing supplies/materials from a M/WBE supply house.”
Price admits he was unsure how helpful the MBE status would be to his company. “I had no idea how important it would be,” he says. “When we started getting certified by various agencies, we soon realized the tremendous opportunities having these certifications afforded us.”
O’Connor notes the city and state have been vigilant in making sure the program is being properly adhered to and not circumvented through loopholes and technicalities.
“Most of the big contractors have minority participation goals on their projects that they have to meet,” he says. “The game has changed in the last six months. The city government and various agencies are tightening the screws on the use of pass-through-type companies to fulfill the requirement. Using a pass-through company is illegal. You are taking a big risk. Some companies in our area have been levied with huge fines. If you’re a contractor that has minority goals, you have to deal with a legitimate minority- and/or woman-owned business. This new enforcement has caused our business to escalate.”
New York Plumbing Supply recently received a seven-figure purchase order from one company. “It’s for a big job — one of the largest in New York City,” Price notes. “The minority certification has opened some doors and has helped us expand to a larger customer base with larger-volume customers. Prior to that, larger companies didn’t do business with us, not because we were a minority operation, but because they felt we weren’t large enough to handle the volume. We prove them wrong every day.”
Tackling the big jobs
Putting minority certification aside, Price asks the question, “Why would the big guys want to deal with a small company like us?” He has plenty of ammunition in which to deliver the answer.
For starters, Price leans on the more than half-century of industry experience he and O’Connor bring to the table. “When you have been around the industry for as long as we have, you kind of know the good and the bad parts,” he says. “You know what the big guys can do and what the little guys can’t. You learn from both sides. We structured our business to reach across both spectrums, serving the small, the big and everything in between.”
That superior customer service includes providing before- and after-the-sale assistance when needed. “I’m on most of our customers’ jobsites to make sure we are giving them the right service and product,” O’Connor says. “We value-engineer the project from waste/drainage and water/supply design and layout. We go a bit further by offering labor-saving products and alternate fixture packages without jeopardizing the integrity and overall quality, look and style.”
Price adds, “This industry has a substantial amount of work, but margins are very tight and you have to be competitive.”
NYPS has strong relationships with all facets of the supply chain, including manufacturers, manufacturers reps and other supply houses. “We buy direct from manufacturers, but we also realize the tremendous value in aligning ourselves with the other stocking distributors/wholesalers and manufacturers’ reps in this region,” Price says.
Those relationships, Price explains, have taken the company far in a short amount of time. “This is a relationship-driven industry,” he says. “We rely on those relationships to help us grow.”
Price also is building long-lasting relationships in his local community. “Relationships are the bedrock of any strong community and my relationship with God, family and community is important to me,” he says.
Price pastors Bethel Christian, a thriving church in Massapequa on Long Island. Half of the NYPS employees are members of his congregation. “I’m not just an employer to these men, but a mentor as well,” he notes.
The church is in the process of building a community center on Long Island that will provide daycare and after-school services, GED and career training, a gymnasium, and a state-of-the-art kitchen and cafeteria for soup-kitchen services.
“Our mission is to serve our area, so we concentrate on community awareness and development, and mentorship programs,” Price says.
In terms of the current and future state of the distribution business, Price says business in the New York City area of late has been brisk and the city is in the midst of an energy-management boom. “The city came out of the recession last year,” he notes. “People are building things again and banks are lending again. There is a lot of work. This is the best of times we’ve seen since the recession started back in 2008.”
And Price plans to have NYPS right in the thick of that prosperity for years to come.
“We’ve proven that we are a legitimate supply house. We’re here to stay,” he says. “Our goal is to move to the next level.”