In 1920, a master plumber by the name of Harry Chernick recognized a need and an opportunity to serve his community in the City of Detroit. It was the “Roaring Twenties” and only a few years earlier Henry Ford had doubled his employees’ wages to $5 per day contributing to what became the rise of the middle class in Detroit. Picking up on that momentum, Harry opened the doors to his plumbing and heating supply company, establishing its roots in the Motor City.
This year, Advance Plumbing & Heating Supply Company celebrates 100 years of success through four generations of hard work and perseverance. “When my grandfather started the company in 1920,” Jeffrey Moss reflects “his vision was to have a business where contractors could find anything that they needed to complete their projects, as well as to supply unique products they couldn’t find anywhere else. My grandfather wanted to be the single source supplier to contractors in this world-class city.”
Today, as president of the company, Jeffrey holds true to that vision and aims to keep it alive and thriving for many more years to come.
Moving Through the Decades
Harry opened the doors to his operation with only three employees and a commitment to the city that he loved. As the economy flourished, so did the company. Even as the economy took a turn, the company stayed the course.
“There were big challenges,” Jeffrey recalls. “Detroit has been through some ups and downs in the last 100 years, but we remained steadfast in our commitment to this city and we have survived the rollercoaster.”
It was a turbulent time, not just because of external factors, but during this time, Harry had passed, leaving the business to his son-in-law, Ronald Moss. As Ronald was faced with a city in turmoil, the business remained a presence and continued to thrive. “My father would not leave Detroit,” Jeffrey says. “It was personal for him, and he would not abandon the city he loved or the customers that had been loyal to the business for so long.”
As most companies in that time, Advance Plumbing dealt with the challenges of the Great Depression and World War II, as well as a shortage of supplies—particularly steel. “The most difficult challenge, however, was probably the 1967 Detroit Riot,” Jeffrey recalls. “Lots of businesses were burned to the ground during that time. Some closed shop while others just left the city. Thankfully, ours survived.”
Advance Plumbing weathered the storm and kept its doors open through all the chaos. Detroit went from once having a population of 2 million to just under 1 million,” Jeffrey says. “But the people who stayed, still had commercial and residential buildings that required plumbing and heating products. And so, we chose to meet those needs and remain as part of the community.”
Customers recognize Advance Plumbing for having done business with their fathers, and their grandfathers, and that it’s always been a part of the community. “They appreciate that, and we appreciate them,” Jeffrey says. “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that the community supports you and that it’s behind you through the ups and downs.”
In 1990, with the vision of Jeffrey Moss, the company expanded with a second location in Walled Lake, Michigan, which today features a state-of-the-art 4,000-square foot decorative plumbing showroom. And in 2016, the company relocated its original storefront to a newer, larger location in Detroit and built the City of Detroit’s first ever decorative plumbing showroom.
Family is the Backbone of Every Great Story
Four generations have kept this business afloat—Harry Chernick opened the doors during an exciting time in Detroit and led it through equally trying times. He then passed the business on to his son-in-law Ronald Moss, who took it to new frontiers in the face of uncertainty. And now his son Jeffrey Moss, (president) runs the business alongside his wife Wendy Moss (human resources) navigating innovation and more expansion. And their sons—Joshua Moss (vice president), Justin Moss (operations manager), and Andrew Moss (marketing consultant) are already heavily involved in the day-to-day operations as well as preparing the business for the future.
You can hear the pride in Jeffrey’s voice when he talks about his family and how family itself has been the driver of success. “My father came into the business without much experience. He just knew he had to step in and figure it out after my grandfather passed,” Jeffrey says. “For me, it was a little different because I grew up around it. But I still made the decision to get involved. I knew that if I didn’t, then it would not exist today, and it would not be something I could potentially pass down to my sons.”
The Moss sons were more than eager to join in the family business. All three of them did so right out of college. “I was very fortunate that my boys came into the business,” Jeffrey says. “Even more so fortunate that it was at the right time.” The City of Detroit has picked up some of that momentum that lit the flame in the 20s and there is a lot of work happening around rebuilding the city. “It’s a once in a generation experience,” Jeffrey says. “And my boys are a part of what’s making that happen.”
From Roots to Growth to Full Blossom
Advance Plumbing started as a supplier of plumbing and heating products, and then added decorative and unique fixtures and accessories to the mix—meeting demand with supply however and whenever. “When my grandfather started the business, the need within the community was to supply products for new construction,” Jeffrey says. “The economy was booming, and he established the company as being the one that can deliver product right away to meet that demand.”
In 1990, however, there wasn’t much in terms of new construction, but there was a big need for repair and renovation. Advance Plumbing was once again there to meet the demand. “There were a lot of old buildings in desperate need of repair,” Jeffrey says. “They needed pipes and valves and fittings.” At the same time, the decorative plumbing industry also was exploding and manufacturers from all over the world were suddenly shipping product into the U.S. “I saw this opportunity,” Jeffrey recalls. “And I was intrigued by how unique and different everything was.”
He convinced his father to do more with decorative plumbing, which in turn allowed the company to grow and expand into new markets. “We always wanted to differentiate ourselves from our competition,” Jeffrey says. “It’s been a huge key to our success over the years, and it’ll continue to drive us going forward.”
In 2008, when the economy took a turn again, Advance Plumbing was able to weather the storm because of the diversity within its product line. “We didn’t have all our eggs in one basket,” Jeffrey says. “We covered everything from new construction and remodeling to high-end home renovations, as well as commercial work.
As the city began to reinvent itself and entrepreneurs began to invest again, Advance Plumbing was right there as a beacon of the community ready to meet whatever demands surfaced. “There’ve been many new businesses coming to town and new buildings popping up everywhere,” Joshua says. “We wanted to be a part of this resurgence, and we felt as the family business that’s been in Detroit since 1920, we had a big role to play in bringing the City of Detroit back to life.”
Today, the Moss brothers are doing just that. “My dad took a leap of faith in all of us,” Joshua says. “In 2016, we relocated the original store into a brand-new 20,000-square-foot building. He allowed my brothers and I to take chances and make choices in helping the business grow.”
Justin has taken the lead in the PVF part of the business, working with contractors and developing relationships, while Josh was charged with opening the first-ever decorative plumbing showroom in Detroit. “Our dad just handed off the different parts of the business to us and let us spread our wings and fly,” Joshua says. “It’s been a great experience.”
Advance Plumbing moved into a historic building, which ironically was built in 1918—around the same time Advance Plumbing established its roots in Detroit. They rebuilt the historical façade of the building, while creating a showroom inside that showcases both the latest and greatest the plumbing industry has to offer, as well as what Jeffrey calls “period appropriate” pieces. “When somebody’s renovating or building a home and they want to replicate a bathroom from the 1920s or 1930s,” Jeffrey says, “they can come into our showroom and see these incredible products that are the same product they would have seen in homes from that time period.”
The showroom has won several awards including two Detroit Home Design awards, Motor City Match, UNESCO Commerce Design award, UNESCO Commerce Design Detroit People’s Choice award, and The Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association Showroom of the Year award.
The business—now in full bloom—has been through ups and downs alongside the City of Detroit. It’s been the cornerstone of commitment, imagination, and perseverance. “We love this city and everything it represents,” Jeffrey says. “We share the same story and it only gets better.”
Trust Shapes the Narrative
Jeffrey has been working in the business for more than 30 years. He recalls back to when he started, “I worked side by side with my father and I watched him closely. He was very old school in the way he did things and in the way he led. He built trust with the community and with our customers and our vendors.”
That mentality still exists today starting with Jeffrey all the way down to his wife and sons and everyone who works at Advance Plumbing. With two locations and 50 employees it’s evident that mentality has served them well. “I encourage the boys to continue learning and investing in new ways to move the business forward, but to always remember what got us here,” Jeffrey says. “I’ve instilled in them what my father instilled in me: You have to work hard and stay involved.”
As part of an initiative to give back to the community, the Moss family launched a website called Rebuilding Detroit (rebuilding313.com), where they sell merchandise with a branded Rebuilding Detroit logo and some of the proceeds go to an organization that sends money to the Detroit public school fund.
They know that they need to give back to this city that has trusted in them for a century. In addition to the website the boys work with Elkay Manufacturing as well as a few other vendors to bring safe drinking water to schools in Detroit. “We went to these manufacturers and explained what we needed and why,” Justin says, “and they came through and helped us make it a reality. Together, we are making sure these kids are always getting 100% safe drinking water.”
Advance also works to give back to the industry that’s kept food on the table for all these years. In addition to being involved with industry organizations such the American Supply Association and several buying groups, the Advance Plumbing family strives to get the word out about what a great industry this is to work in. “We’ve participated in events where we talk to high-school aged kids about a career in plumbing,” Justin says. “It’s one of my favorite things to do. We set up a booth where we can talk to them and explain what the plumbing industry has to offer them and why becoming a plumber would be a good career choice.”
Promise to City and Customers
For 100 years the people of Detroit have come to know Advance Plumbing. “Our name is our secret sauce,” Jeffrey says. “our name represents giving our customers the best we can give, always”
This family-owned and run business intends to stick around for another 100 years, remaining as part of the city’s rich history. “We’re here to take care of our own,” Jeffrey says. “Everyone who works for us is treated like family. Our customers are treated like family. Our vendors are treated like family.”
The family plans to celebrate 100 years of success later this year and invite the community it loves to participate. “It’s been an incredible ride,” Joshua says. “This is what we love to do. It really is. So, we will be here no matter what, ready to serve the people of Detroit in all their plumbing needs.”
Congratulations to Advance Plumbing and the Moss family on their 100 years in service. Cheers to another 100 ahead!