Subscribe to our newsletters & stay updated
Opening its door in 1923, Solomon Kissler founded a New York City importing and exporting company featuring porcelain figurines, escutcheons, and other items such as door handles for refrigerators and ovens. One day, a customer came in asking if he could make a shower stem to go behind the shower handle. Soon after, Kissler & Co. began manufacturing and distributing shower stems in the United States. The customer requested shower stem - that item still exists, and is product number 22-0001.
Early in the 1950s, Solomon Kissler had a stroke; his wife, Ruth Kissler, stepped in to run the business while their son, Gerald (Jerry) Kissler, was serving in the U.S. Army. “My grandmother ran the lathes and all the machinery in making the products … and she went on to run the business for about three years until our father came home from the Army,” says Glenn Kissler, a third-generation family member and current “vice president” — the company prefers not to use titles (more on that later).
Once discharged, Jerry Kissler joined the family business, and moved the company from Manhattan to the Bronx. The move allowed the company to continue growing — as did his family: his wife, Renee Kissler, and four children.
“I remember one family car trip to Texas,” recalls his son, Barry Kissler. “We were going on vacation and along the way, my father made calls and created a presence for [the company] to sell in the United States. When we came back to the Bronx, we began distributing faucets, stems and brass parts in the United States.”
“Our father knew every product and faucet stem inside and out,” Barry Kissler notes. When Barry and Glenn Kissler joined their father in the business more than 40 years ago, they helped expand it into importing diecast parts.
“We couldn’t find a U.S. manufacturer, as they were all going out of business,” Barry Kissler explains. “We found terrific importers in Asia, bought the tooling and controlled the quality of the merchandise we were creating and sending out. And soon diecast became an essential part of the company’s inventory. It also fostered the company’s ability to source other quality crafted products.”
The company continued expanding, moving every few years to keep up with its growth. Eventually, (2 moves later) the moves would place the manufacturing and distribution company in an 80,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility in Carlstadt, N.J., where more than 18,000 different parts are inventoried, and carefully selected items are manufactured, in this space.
The plumbing and repair parts manufacturer’s inventory includes older, hard-to-find items and contemporary parts, both original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and generic. Over the years, Kissler has added a complete line of flexible, stainless-steel and PVC supply lines, quarter-turn stop valves, toilet and sink repair/replacement parts, diecast handles and trim, and its newest line of stylish faucets, Dominion Faucets.
The company also supplies thousands of non-OEM parts for almost any manufacturer, current or obsolete. And, as its website states, “Our machine shop lathes can reproduce almost any stem imaginable!”
The family-owned and -operated company is in its fourth generation at the helm, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Age is just a number - the company is not slowing down — it’s investing in the future.
Keeping Up with Growth
Brothers Barry and Glenn Kissler comprise the third generation at the helm. While titles are not used at the company, the co-owners make it easy for all. “If I had a title, it would be vice president of sales and marketing — but in reality, my job duties entail everything outside the building,” Glenn Kissler explains. Barry Kissler holds the title of president and adds: “My focus is operations of the business, from the financial side, co-worker side and the warehouse – basically everything inside the building.”
To say they grew up in the business is an understatement. Barry Kissler recalls when he was around five years old and “working” at the company and how his father would pay him $2 a day plus lunch. Fast-forward 40 years, the brothers are actively involved in the business, along with their sons, Jeffrey Kissler and Joshua Kissler, and other extended family members.
With approximately 60 co-workers and 18,000 different SKU numbers of inventory in-house, I ask how many products are in the company’s overall inventory. “Our computer systems track around 40,000 active numbers (for products), but in reality, the number of items we can carry is infinite,” Barry Kissler says.
“We do repair parts for companies such as Sloan, American Standard, Gerber, Delta, Moen, Kohler and Price Pfister — just to name a few,” Glenn Kissler notes. “We also have many other OEMs items that we inventory. So however many numbers are on these OEM price sheets — we technically have access to every item — we distribute plumbing repair parts.”
“One of the things that makes us stand out is the number of years we have working in the industry,” he says. He continues, “We have tremendous product knowledge.” And Barry smiles and says, “The first part, number 22-0001,”. It was the part that started it all. “I dream of numbers. If you tell me your phone number, I will somehow relate it to a part number we sell — and that’s how I will remember it!” Barry Kissler says.
Kissler and Co. takes great pride in its customer service — from product knowledge to ease of business. “We are one-stop shopping for anything that has to do with the flow of water,” Glenn Kissler notes.
It starts with an effortless ordering process, made possible by its investment in a new warehouse management system about four years ago.
The warehouse management system makes it easy for Kissler’s 40 warehouse workers to know where every item is in the facility, as well as the quantity of each item. This cutting-edge technology gives the company an advantage.
“We generate a barcode that is sent to handheld devices, where co-workers pick and pack the item into boxes,” Barry Kissler explains. “It is fast and efficient; being technologically advanced and up to date in our facilities keeps us ahead of the others. With computer tracking of where items are located, in theory, you never lose anything.”
Around the same time, the company switched to a back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. “We had been working off a 40-year-old operating system,” Glenn Kissler says, smiling. “And November 14— I’ll remember that day in infamy — is when we changed over.” He adds that tailoring the system to the company’s needs allows it to accomplish everything it had hoped to do.
“We have an excellent staff, and they understand technology,” he explains. “They are big influencers in getting our programs up and running.” It should be noted that the office staff got the ERP system up and running in six months — “burning the midnight oil,” according to Barry Kissler. The normal time frame is well over 1 year.
The Kissler Experience
The investment in technology enhances The Kissler Experience: the process and culture of caring for its customers and making ordering easy.
“We have live customer service agents for when a call comes in and an order gets placed,” Glenn Kissler notes. With account managers assigned to regions, they can quickly assist customers directly. It’s the ease of being able to get help when needed.
In addition, with the new software, customers can place orders directly online — at their convenience. “Once an order is placed, they receive confirmation within seconds, and one can expect the items to ship within 24 hours,” he says.
The shipping process takes on an extra step for customer satisfaction. “When you receive a package from us, it’s like opening up a present,” Barry Kissler explains. “With our white box with red letters across the front, you are sure that you will be receiving an organized, error-free shipment.”
He adds that even the packing material is well-organized and clean, making the delivery more like a gift: “We receive deliveries from major manufacturers, newspaper fills the open spaces and there isn’t even a packing slip — it’s a horrible job. Too often, there is no packing fill at all. You will never get that experience from a Kissler shipment.”
Not to be left out is how the company has made it easier for its end-user customers when purchasing products. They call it the Keep It Simple System (KISS), where the backing cards in it the clamshell packaging of products are color-coded to easily identify the manufacturer.
It is a simple idea with a big impact. By grouping items on pegboards or displays by the same manufacturer, it’s easier for the customer to select all the pieces needed at one time, in one place.
Customer Service Goes Many Ways
At the core of the company and its employees is the customer service given and the culture in which it thrives.
Many of the co-workers have been with the company for more than 20 years; the shop steward, who retired during the COVID-19 pandemic, had been with the company for more than 50 years.
“We have a happy place here, where people enjoy coming to work,” Glenn Kissler remarks. “We are a small office, and we aren’t big on titles. Everyone knows their job descriptions, and we all make it happen. We may be a small business, but we carry a big presence.”
The team understands that it’s all about taking care of co-workers. The company culture thrives in its cohesiveness to get things done correctly and quickly.
The Kisslers take care of its employees — and in ways that make a big impact. “This is a family company, and I can’t go home and sleep comfortably at night unless I know that everyone is making a living wage in a good and clean environment,” Barry Kissler explains. “They all work eight to 10 hours a day; it should be a nice place to work. And that’s what we strive for — being better.”
Glenn Kissler nods in agreement: “We have more than 60 families on our shoulders, and they are our responsibility. They made a commitment to us, and we give that commitment back to them.”
The Kisslers give back in small ways that make significant impacts, usually out of their own pockets. When food prices were soaring, the brothers gave out a set amount of money weekly to help offset the costs. When gas prices topped the $5/gallon mark, the brothers distributed $100 gas cards to each worker.
One worker had been with the company for two weeks, and when given the gas card, she was overwhelmed. “She hugged me; she appreciated the gift,” Glenn Kissler notes. It’s the little things that add up in developing a company culture that takes care of those who take care of the business. “What I think goes a very long way is to make somebody feel like a member of our little community here,” he says.
Caring for others also extends to the manufacturers and vendors with whom the company works. For example, a vendor submitting an invoice that Kissler paid within 15 days. “He commented to a warehouse worker about how no one does that!” Barry Kissler notes. “We take care of our vendors, and they take care of us.”
And it goes both ways — vendors give the company preferential treatment and ensure it has what it needs, even in the toughest times.
The Next Generation
The brothers Kissler have passed on the love of the family company to their sons: Jeffrey Kissler (Glenn’s son) and Joshua Kissler (Barry’s son) are both actively involved in the company.
Jeffrey Kissler’s focus is on the sales and marketing department. “I started here in 2012, and I’m predominately in sales, with some focus on our ERP system,” he says, adding: ”I am amazed that folks will tell stories about my grandfather and our family history. We have employees who know so many generations — and that is very cool.”
Joshua Kissler joined the family company two years ago. “I’m a lawyer and had no plans of joining the company,” he says. Smiling, he adds: “However, a spot needed to be filled here at the company, and I was up for the challenge. And it is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far — a lot of learning, but it has been a good challenge.” Joshua Kissler focuses on the warehouse side, accounts payable and receivables, and ordering inventory.
As the fourth generation in a family-owned and -operated company celebrating 100 years in business, I asked the gentlemen how they explain to others the age-old question, “What do you do for a living?”
Jeffrey Kissler smiles: “I always say we sell something everyone needs — and we all use plumbing daily. I tell them we make the parts that make it work.”
Joshua Kissler adds: “It’s relatable because everyone has a sink or a shower. I enjoy it — and plumbing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
They both agree that the advantages of having a smaller, family-owned company make it easier to pivot and adjust along the way, without having the wait or lead time sometimes needed when working for a larger corporation — such as having a live operator answering the phone to help with questions.
“We are all very accessible; we don’t hide behind doors, especially with the people we work with,” Jeffrey Kissler explains. “Customer service is something we take seriously, and that sets us apart.”
Joshua Kissler adds: “We give a personalized approach, which is a big benefit.”
Celebrating 100 Years
To mark the century milestone, Kissler and Co. celebrated with more than 250 co-workers, family and friends for a dinner and casino themed celebration. On display were artifacts from the company’s past 100 years. “It was fun celebrating the company’s 100th birthday — 100 years and four generations!” Barry Kissler says.
“It’s amazing to see how much history is here,” Jeffrey Kissler notes, referring to the old catalogs, products and flyers they have found and brought to the anniversary party, “It’s a cool timeline to go through the history, and see what we have been up to for 100 years.”
One thing that has yet to change is the company’s openness to giving back to its community and to causes close to their Jewish faith — from supporting their local community’s youth athletics program, supporting the building of local area hospitals and cancer centers, and having spearheaded the longest running independent sheltered workshop in New Jersey for mentally challenged adults. The program ran for 25 years, pre-COVID. To the family, it’s crucial to invest in its community and continuously support it on the local level.
The Kissler family takes great pride in the company that has been built over generations — and the co-workers who treat customers like family. “We are located three miles outside New York City and welcome anyone who wants to visit us — our door is always open,” Glenn Kissler says. “I like to tell people we can tell you how good we are, but to show you is even better — because we truly care.”
And it shows. Happy 100th Birthday to Kissler & Co.!