The Embassy buying group took a huge step forward this past year.

Speaking to Supply House Times at the Geneva, Ill.-based company’s 23rd annual Spring Conference at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio, President Mike Lepley reported the group enjoyed a banner 2013.

“It was a record year for the organization on both the plumbing and HVAC sides of the business,” he said. “We had an improvement in the economy and we added some additional membership, but the success mainly was due to the economy and Embassy members’ strengths in their respective markets.”

New Embassy members include Seattle-based Keller Supply Co., Hartford, Conn.-based Bell/ Simons Companies, Anaheim, Calif.-based Todd Pipe & Supply and Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Williams Distributing.

Embassy also debuted a waterworks division within the buying group on Jan. 1. “Our waterworks vertical has been well-received,” Lepley noted. “This is the first time we’ve had vendor-member conferences for waterworks. We have 19 members here and 15 vendors participating. Adding a waterworks vertical makes sense. We purchased a lot of waterworks products and we have members that are large enough and have their own waterworks divisions. We’re looking to grow our business and this was an opportunity to help that growth. It’s an industry need. Right now there are very few alternatives in the marketplace.”

Lepley said Embassy continues to thrive because of the group’s close-knit culture. “It’s a collegial group,” he said. “We have 65 total members. It creates the ability to have a lot of conversations and fosters more camaraderie with fewer members. The size coupled with a very simple and transparent model provides the independent a lot of flexibility and outstanding financial returns.”

This year’s Embassy meeting once again featured the group’s popular format where each member is guaranteed a meeting with every vendor in attendance. Plenty of social activities, including a Texas-themed dinner and concert by country music performer Jody Jenkins and his band, also were on the schedule.

“It’s a first-class event that has been going on since the very beginning,” Lepley said. “It’s a working show. As a member, you will meet every vendor. From a vendor’s standpoint, with the plumbing, HVAC and waterworks groups, you could have up to 90 meetings in a four-day period. We require principals to be here. Typically, manufacturers are sitting in front of key decision makers.”

The Embassy Group 24th annual Spring Conference will take place March 17-21, 2015, at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes.