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In February 2021, the Lone Star State went through a devastating, record-setting deep freeze for days in a row. Snow and ice built up on trees, roadways, roofs and surrounding areas outside homes and businesses, increasing the demand for heating.
Eventually, it overwhelmed the Texas electrical grid, causing it to lose power — leaving millions of Texans without access to electricity and heat, many for several days.
According to the National Weather Service’s website (https://bit.ly/3zkyR0r), the storm’s impact lasted 139 hours: from 5 p.m. Feb. 13 to noon Feb. 19. It ties for fifth place for most consecutive hours below freezing, and ties for eighth place for most consecutive hours at or below freezing.)
The infrastructure destruction of homes and businesses was devastating. According to a Wall Street Journal article (https://on.wsj.com/2TI3NYd), the winter freeze damage from burst piping systems to collapsed roofs is expected to hit $18 billion.
The toll taken on the state and its communities had supply houses and contractors from across the United States lending a hand, and product, in support. Local areas quickly ran out of building products needed to repair homes and businesses, and local supply houses tried to source products to fill customer needs. However, one company stood out, with its large inventory and can-do attitude, to take care of customers and community.
Romar Supply & Fabrication (www.romarsuppy.com), a family-owned and -operated PVF wholesale distributor, as well as a full-service fabricator, has locations in Dallas/Fort Worth and the San Antonio/Austin areas. It serves the mechanical piping, process piping, power industry and HVAC markets, along with markets for structural and piping fabrication.
We talked with Petra Adair, a family member working in the business, to learn about the impact of the storm (from Romar’s point of view), and how it stepped in to lend a hand and deliver on its motto: Romar's vision is to be the most in demand, full-service, high quality supply house of PVF products and custom steel fabrications to the mechanical and industrial markets across the nation. It does so by delivering superior service and quality products and solutions to enhance the operations and success of our customer.
Ruth Mitchell: Please tell us about the history of Romar Supply, which I understand is a HUB-certified business.
Petra Adair: In 1983, after graduating from college, Mark Adair and his brother, Ron, were working for a plumbing supply house in sales and decided to start their own business. They asked their father, Roy Adair, who had worked in the plumbing supply business for Crane Supply for more than 50 years, to come out of retirement to help.
Mark focused on sales and Ron focused on operations. They even persuaded their mother, Billie Ann, to answer the phone. Shortly after, Mark and Ron’s sister Roanne joined the family business. The name Romar is a combination of their first names: Ro for Roy, Ron, and Roanne, and Mar for Mark. Romar Supply was born.
In 1997, when Roy Adair passed away, his shares were given to his daughter Roanne Lasater. Terri Adair, Ron’s wife, worked part time before joining Romar full time in 1999 — giving the majority of the ownership to the three women: Billie, Roanne and Terri.
RM: How many locations, number of employees, number of distribution centers and areas do you serve?
PA: Romar has just under 100 employees with two fully stocked locations and fabrication capabilities: one in Dallas and one in San Antonio. They serve all of Texas, especially the rapidly growing North Texas market, the central corridor of Austin/San Antonio, and the Houston area and south markets.
Romar makes routine deliveries with our own fleet of trucks to surrounding states. We have sold to markets all over the country — as far north as New York and as far west as California.
RM: Value added is what sets companies apart; describe Romar’s offerings.
PA: At our core is distribution and fabrication. Our steel and custom steel fabrication, combined with our ability to deliver complete packaged systems and packaged fabricated supports to the jobsite, makes Romar unique in the industry.
Our fabrication shop and stock of product in both locations allow us to quickly turnaround product for our customers. We are one of Anvil’s biggest distributors of Gruvlok, and with our fabrication capabilities to both groove and weld, we can deliver any packaged system complete to the customer.
Storm Impact and Romar Response
RM: What was the immediate need in your community (and extended community) from the storm?
PA: The immediate need was inventory! Local power plants, processing plants, hospitals, etc., had a critical need for a supplier to have material on hand, which was in short supply. With roads nearly impassable for days, bringing in inventory was nearly impossible, and the amount of devastation to the area was massive. Customers could not wait a day or two for delivery.
RM: How was Romar able to respond to those needs?
PA: Word spread quickly where people could get the material they needed, as we had a fully stocked, 116,000-square-foot warehouse of material. Our employees made it to the office to help with the demand at our Will Call counter, and customers — both existing and new — were waiting in our warehouse for their turn.
Luckily, we have inside loading, so product could be loaded onto customers’ trucks inside the warehouse and out of the weather. Powerplants desperately needed product on the first night (Monday), and our people came in and pulled product to help get them up and running. Romar never lost power, but we chose to close the fabrication shop to save electricity for the city and residents.
RM: How have your channel partners helped during the crisis?
PA: We have our own fleet of trucks and are able to pick up inventory from local manufacturers. Because of our close relationship with our vendor partners, all were willing to open up for our trucks to pick up needed material.
RM: How did this event force a change in the way you do business?
PA: Our inventory levels were and are more than adequate to handle the influx. In conjunction with our software system, we knew right away what needed to be replaced. Our niche is to carry a larger amount of inventory. So when circumstance such as a natural disaster occur, as well as regular shutdowns and during unforeseen circumstances on jobsites, Romar’s model of a robust inventory serves us and our customers well.
RM: Describe the PVF market in your area, and the changes over the last three years.
PA: With the explosive growth in Texas, the PVF market has grown at an unprecedented rate. Romar has always had a robust inventory, but we have since added to that specialized product and hard-to-find product. Those services come with our experienced sales team and their contacts to quickly find those items. Our customers know, and new customers are quickly finding out, that whatever they need, Romar will come through.
RM: What challenges did Romar Supply face during that time?
PA: Keeping up with technology and search engines, anticipating how our customers want to do business, and working to make it a simplified process for them is always on our minds. We are always looking for ways to make customers’ interactions with us as easy as possible. We know that when they contact us, they needed it yesterday.
RM: How have customer expectations changed over the years? How has the team adapted?
PA: Our culture has quickly grown accustomed to instant gratification, especially in getting things one wants. Customers are no different. In the recent past, Romar had to decide whether to diversify its products and services or simply continue to improve the service we provide to the customer. We chose the latter.
We have remained a company with an extensive inventory that stocks primarily PVF and HVAC. The addition of the fabrication shop allows us to bundle systems together, which simplifies our customers’ lives on the jobsite. This service is invaluable to the people we serve because it makes their lives that much easier.
RM: Describe the company culture at Romar.
PA: The company culture is family and flexibility for one vision. Romar has a family team-based culture that emphasizes flexibility and employee participation on all levels. Roles can be fluid as many here have held multiple positions, so they are able to assist in other areas when needed.
We work together, everyone doing their part to get the product to the customer. Flexibility in the workplace but also in people’s personal lives define Romar’s culture.
RM: How do you attract new talent to your company?
PA: The longevity of our employees is something we are very proud of. We employ more than 30 people who have worked here between five and 30 years. Our people know the PVF business! Our biggest success as an employer has been the fact that our employees tell their friends, family and industry contacts about working for us. It is a family business for us, and it is a family business for many of our employees.
We give people a chance and are not afraid to train those who might be new to the industry or want to try out a new role in the business. When we find a good employee, we try hard to find a place at Romar where they can feel successful and where they know they are adding value to the business.
RM: Has Romar implemented any new initiatives in the last three years?
PA: Before the pandemic hit, we had a two-year goal to enhance our fabrication capabilities in both north Texas and central/south Texas for complete grooved product systems and fabricated hanger support systems. Thankfully we are still on track for that and well on our way with growth in those areas.
RM: How does the company support its “Our Certain Future” statement?
PA: Our future remaining an industry leader is exciting and constantly evolving. We’re always growing our business and staying apprised of changes in the marketplace to quickly make adjustments and remain competitive, and in so doing better serve our customers. Our vision is what we work for daily, so our future remains strong and secure.
The choices we made toward fabrication and keeping an extensive inventory, and our focus on customer satisfaction and ease of doing business with Romar remains our strong suit. And while we feel that we are more and more set apart by the value we place on our seasoned workforce and loyal sales team, we are always looking for fresh perspectives in the up-and-coming generation.
RM: How has being a part of a buying group helped you in business? What does the buying group provide that you cannot find elsewhere?
PA: Being part of AD puts us in a better position to be on a more even playing field with the larger independents and national chains. This helps set our company apart from the competition, as our industry is a natural fit for big corporations. However, the fact that we are still a small independent company competing against the corporations sets us apart as we can make decisions right in our office, right in our customer’s backyard.
RM: What does the next chapter look like?
PA: We are looking forward to extending our two-year goal into three-year and four-year plans. We are working on expanding our footprint in Austin by fortifying our San Antonio team. It is an exciting time to be in Texas!