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The Association of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives has experienced tremendous growth in membership, programs, sponsorships and their highly-regarded conference. Much of that was made possible by the efforts of its founding members and many others who have been instrumental in building AIM/R’s foundation and charting its course.
Their passion, leadership, integrity and entrepreneurial spirit also helped create greater awareness of the value that independent manufacturers’ representatives bring to the supply chain. So in 2015, the AIM/R Hall of Fame was established to formally memorialize and honor those significant contributions. The inaugural class of seven was announced that year at the 43rd Annual AIM/R Conference in Coral Gables, Florida.
Sixteen esteemed AIM/R members have been honored to date, and another was inducted posthumously at the 49th Annual Conference, held Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.
Bill Near had a legendary six-decade career in New York, with twists and turns that were challenging in the moment — yet he seemed to have a golden touch that never failed him.
The plumbing industry had been Near’s livelihood — and life — since he started working in 1946. Near began his career in contracting and then made a name for himself in sales with several plumbing and heating manufacturers.
A chance meeting in a parking lot in 1960 led Near to a completely new opportunity as a manufacturers’ rep. He accepted a partnership with David Carter of the R. David Carter Corp. The agency was the first Delta Faucet rep in New York City. In preparing to represent his late father at this Hall of Fame induction, his son Richard Near recently recalled, “Many people told him a single-handle faucet would never be accepted in the New York market, but he proved them very wrong! Dad really pioneered the Delta line in that area.”
When the partners decided to split in 1974, Near was left with a big question mark about his next venture. AIM/R actually played a major role in the direction Near chose to take. Even though he had resigned from Carter Corp., his fellow reps from around the country invited Near to join the board of directors of the newly formed AIM/R. Their confidence in his ability gave him the boost he needed to found William K. Near & Associates with former colleague Ted Borsari. Their first line was American Valve, and they soon added Alsons, State Water Heaters and later became Moen’s only independent rep in the continental U.S. Among other lines they were awarded were Bemis, A.W. Cash, InSinkErator and Zoeller. Near & Associates covered the five boroughs of New York, as well as Westchester County, New York, Long Island, northern New Jersey and Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Bill Near retired from the firm bearing his name in 2005 and passed away in 2007. His son Richard Near — who followed in his footsteps as a rep and has been with Dellon Sales for 14 years — recently looked back at his father’s life and said “He was a glass half-full man from the get-go who truly lived every day of his life. My dad always was optimistic, impeccably dressed and wore a smile on his face. He had a passion for the plumbing industry, and he loved AIM/R.
“Dad spoke in cliches that were often rooted in truth. One of his sayings was ‘It’s not a glamorous business but if you work hard and call people back, you can make a living at it.’ And that’s still true today. People rely way too much on emails and texts, which don’t replace actual conversations over the phone or in-person. When Dad was at a conference or special event at a hotel, he’d sit in the lobby rather than go up to his room so he’d have a chance to socialize with the other attendees. He enjoyed people and believed in acknowledging everyone when you walked into a room, no matter what their role. He believed that ‘The person working behind the counter may be a future manager, or someone sweeping the floor might be the owner’s son.’”
As son Richard described, Bill Near worked almost all the way until the end of his life. “He often would say ‘If a 30-day contract doesn’t get you out of bed, nothing else will!’ And he lived that every day. I’m so proud that AIM/R is recognizing his contributions to the industry, his lines, his customers and his peers at AIM/R. My dad truly deserves this honor,” he said.
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