Subscribe to our newsletters & stay updated
Located in Piscataway, N.J., General Plumbing Supply (GPS) is one of the largest distributors of plumbing, heating, cooling, and industrial supplies in New Jersey, with 22 locations in New Jersey and New York. The wholesale distributor recently moved into a complex that expands the company’s footprint — enabling it to keep up with its growth and provide the roadmap for future expansion. While developing the family-owned and -operated company’s footprint, its pillars of commitment remain at the company’s core: Relationships, Brands, Innovations, and Delivery. And at heart is a commitment by its founder to stock what the customer needs and have family members remain steadfast in ensuring its customers’ and team members’ success.
Forging Strong Relationships
In 1910, Charles Goldberg left his job at a local hardware store in New York’s Lower East Side and moved to Bayonne, N.J. There, he established his store, named Goldberg Plumbing Supply. The store offered a wide range of supplies, from sheet metal to plumbing fixtures, and served the local area from a single storefront. Over time, the company changed its name to General Plumbing Supply (GPS) and remained a family-owned and -operated business.
Justin Freedman, the fourth-generation president, and Bruce Tucker, the third-generation CEO, emphasize their focus on providing the products customers need, even during challenging times, leading to the company’s growth.
Tucker outlined how the company’s focus was, and remains, to have the inventory needed in the market. “My grandfather sold anything people wanted; the company had a gasoline pump and also sold tires. If you needed it, he got it for you.” While small and nimble, the company was built on service, relationships, and having the products in stock — “getting what people needed, when they needed it,” Tucker says.
Relationships include strong ties with his customers, as well as with suppliers. When the country went through the Great Depression, “my grandfather’s claim to fame was making it through the depression without going bankrupt!” Tucker notes, smiling.
The company survived and thrived post-WWII, becoming an economic growth engine for communities with rising demand for housing. Herb Tucker, Bruce’s father, saw an opportunity and redirected the company to focus solely on being a dedicated plumbing supply house. This decision set the company’s growth path and established it as the go-to plumbing supply company.
While other supply houses in the area struggled, GPS succeeded, expanding its customer base and service area. In 1970, Bruce Tucker took over and added a second location in Morris Plains, N.J. In the 1980s, the company added another spacious 70,000-square-foot building in Edison, N.J., to accommodate its growing inventory (which later became its headquarters until 2022 - more on that later). The company expanded by adding HVAC to its offerings and opening more than 20 locations over the last 25 years.” The company’s growth at that time was exponential,” Freedman notes.
Today, the company proudly maintains its family-owned and -operated roots. Bruce Tucker serves as CEO, while Freedman is president. Matt, Freedman’s brother, manages finances and operations, and nephew Ian Ebner is vice president of sales. As the company celebrates its 113th year in business, it remains committed to its legacy and continuous growth.
Brands and Optimizing Delivery Technology
GPS is in an inventory-intensive distribution model, and as the largest Kohler stocking distributor, the brand is well represented for its customers and those across the United States who seek the Kohler products it stocks. “We have become one of the largest Kohler distributors in the country, selling throughout the New York metro area and to distributors all over the country,” Justin Freedman explains. However, that is only the start. With various products and brands, including an extensive array of residential, commercial, and decorative plumbing, the distributor is a go-to for its residential and commercial plumbers, contractors, HVAC companies, mechanical contractors, designers and homeowners.
Today, the wholesale distributor employs more than 450 people who care for GPS’s 22 locations: 18 trade counter locations (9 with GPS-branded showrooms), and four stand-alone showrooms including three Kohler Signature stores. Team members are invested in the success of their customers, and it shows. By taking an active approach in training, team members can understand, experience, and solve customer pain points. And they follow the lead of the highly involved family owners, who are visible and active participants in the company’s day-to-day activities, showing the family pride of ownership in action. “We are accessible and responsive and can make decisions quickly to turn the ship,” says Freedman. The ability to act swiftly allows the company to change direction when needed.
The company rounds out its offerings with many manufacturers, appealing to different demographics and price points. In short – many options are available for customers’ projects at the price point they are searching for.
With strong ties to its vendors and commitment to its customers, in 2022, GPS moved its headquarters and central distribution center (CDC) to Piscataway. The expansive campus is immediately off a busy highway, providing customer ease of access and a campus to stock and manage the depth of products it has on hand.
The new headquarters comprises two buildings and totaling more than 300,000 square feet, including 50 dock doors. The location was selected as it allows for easy in/out for its customer base and a centralized location for its CDC – allowing for future growth of new sites to be serviced in the same swift and efficient manner.
The first building houses the corporate offices, training center, a product receiving area, additional storage and distribution space, a will-call pickup, and its flagship branch and showroom in Piscataway. Directly across is the second building, used for stocking and shipping. It is an impressive and massive building, with 40-foot-tall ceilings and tall racking packed with products and technology incorporated into the shipping area. The facility focuses on the details of delivery in every aspect.
It starts with using radio-frequency scanning through the entire process, making managing its extensive inventory more efficient. Regarding physical delivery, GPS introduced new box makers, scanning technology, pallet wrapping, and much more — making shipping more efficient. From there, it gets staged to be delivered by one of its more than 90 fleet of trucks.
“The brand-new efficient site allows us to satisfy our customers and our branches in the capacity they deserve,” Freedman explains. “And it puts us in a position to grow for years to come.”
Innovation in All Areas
GPS showrooms are dedicated to showcasing the latest trends, embodying the distributor’s core value of innovation. The well-trained staff stays updated on the newest kitchen and bath designs, offering expertise in product design and how it fits into projects. This extends beyond design trends, as GPS invests heavily in HVAC inventory, including connected devices and systems such as energy-conserving heat pumps and WaterSense water-saving products.
Innovation and technology play pivotal roles at GPS, optimizing stocking, picking, and shipping processes. Online appointment scheduling for vendors and carriers ensures efficiency. A wide range of technologically advanced products, such as heat pumps and touchless digital fixtures, cater to energy-efficient demands.
As a member of The Commonwealth Group, GPS forms tight partnerships with vendors, gaining access to the latest tech-driven products. Leveraging these partnerships keeps GPS ahead in technology, innovation, and offerings. A diligent team vets products, ensuring added benefits for tradespeople and homeowners, all aimed at setting up everyone for success.
GPS also embraces e-commerce, allowing customers to place orders through its dedicated websites conveniently. Generalplumbingsupply.net, the company’s full website stocked with thousands of products, and Shopgps.com, which focus on its plumbing showrooms, both making their extensive inventory accessible to customers across the United States.
Customer care is paramount at GPS, driven by a team inspired by family members’ active involvement. Post-COVID-19, customer expectations have shifted toward on-demand or on-site inventory availability. GPS meets this demand through its new facility, featuring a vast selection of inventory, including the most extensive collection of Kohler, Rheem water heaters, Luxaire, Weil-McLain, Moen, and numerous other brands.
“We’ve all lived through the reality that was COVID and witnessed its impact on the supply chain. The expectation of an on-demand or on-site inventory has grown with our customers. Our new facility allowed us to invest in more inventory,” Freedman says. And it shows. The DC is packed with the largest selection of Kohler inventory and the hundreds of other brands the company carries. And being centrally located in New Jersey offers the opportunity to continue growing into the surrounding communities while maintaining a high inventory easily accessible to both branches and within its DC.
Extensive Training Helps Deliver Satisfaction
Training takes place for team members and customers in many different forms. Manufacturer representatives showcase current products — from use, applications, and connectivity — and new products that build upon the company’s current offerings. Bringing in new products from its vendor partners expands the opportunities for its customers.
Partnerships and its commitment to setting up customers for success runs deep at GPS. In the new facility, the company built a large training room run by Rob Larson, training tech manager, its dedicated in-house trainer.
Larson has expansive industry experience. As a licensed contractor who has worked in the field and supply houses, he was brought in several years ago to assist the company with its training program. When GPS moved into its new facility, Larson had the opportunity to expand the training classroom and incorporate live-fired and more hands-on training — especially on the HVAC side.
He assembled an extensive training program, including regularly scheduled technical classes. “Many times, contractors would take the challenges in the field and bring them into the classroom for us to reenact and solve, showing others what they might encounter,” Larson notes.
On-demand training is also offered; contractor customers can call and schedule training for their teams, often bringing in large groups for personalized training.
“We can offer our customers the training they need when they need it,” he says. In addition, Larson focuses on “seasonal” training and sends out emails asking those directly in the field what they want to learn more about. Maintaining their needs keeps GPS at the forefront of customer service. In addition, Larson set up what he calls a “technical corner,” where videotaping of product applications and problem-solving take place and is available for viewing via social media. It’s another way to provide guidance and keep individuals updated on new products and solutions to common challenges.
Bringing the training center full circle, the company also offers technical support to those in the field. However, it is only a start.” When I started here, I wondered how would I merge tech support and training?” Larson recalls. “I would often get calls from techs up on a roof, it’s 100 degrees outside, and they have a challenge. We can help at that time but take it a step further. I say, ‘Don’t be mad at me if I ask you to go an extra step — there is a reason behind it. Because I don’t want you only to fix this call, I want you to figure out why.’”
It’s another way to showcase how GPS supports its customers — helping make them the best in class.