A day behind the counter at Lebanon, Pa.-based APR Supply begins with the usual tasks of a plumbing & HVAC supply company preparing for routine operations: deposits, cash boxes, seeing that yesterday’s orders are in shape for pick-up or delivery, warranties, phone calls and tying up any loose ends before the doors open.
But when the first customers of the day arrive, you begin to see what sets APR apart:
At APR, employee/customer relationships are nurtured and groomed, guarded with genuine care and an effort to see that there’s always solid, friendly, two-way communication. While phones are ringing off the hook and there’s an endless supply of contractors and homeowners in the shop looking for assistance, a first-name basis relationship is something regularly found there.
The doors are open to contractors and homeowners, so day-to-day projects APR employees help with range from multi-million dollar commercial jobs to custom projects needing creative solutions – such as the occasional homemade kegarator and PVC deer feeder.
Rows of plumbing and HVAC equipment in the store provide customers with everything they could possibly need, right at their fingertips.
“What’s too large to carry in the shop, or what we run low on because of demand, we have in our distribution center,” explained Dave Snyder, 14-year Inside Sales associate at APR.
The APR distribution center is less than five blocks away from the supply store. If a customer needs something in the distribution center, a call will be made and by the time the customer makes the two minute drive (or walk) the products are already there waiting to be picked up.
APR also offers a convenience their competitors don’t – web order entry. Customers can order the products they need online and within 24 hours, it’s delivered to the jobsite.
Thirteen of the 33 APR locations share a building with Schaedler Yesco – an electrical and datacomm products distribution company. The joint-venture relationship is a major advantage to both companies.
“Having all of the products a customer could possibly need for anything in the plumbing, heating, HVAC and electrical field makes us their one-stop shop,” said Todd Yingst, 15-year Inside Sales associate at APR.
Taking that one step further, APR locations are also home to seven Oasis Showrooms.
“The work begins at the counters of APR and Schaedler Yesco with the guts of the projects,” explained Danielle Gundrum, Design Consultant at the Oasis Showroom. “As projects move toward completion, our customers – whether homeowners or contractors with their clients – come in to the showroom to make final selections for plumbing fixtures, kitchen or bath needs – the works. From floor to ceiling, we help them put it all together.”
Scott Weaver, APR Supply President & CEO added, “With 33 locations in Pennsylvania, APR offers 24-hour delivery, same day or next day deliveries. Today, APR is one of the most reliable suppliers in the country.”
Relationships done right
“The key to a successful business in our industry are the relationships it’s built upon,” explained Sam Rueppel, 17-year Outside Salesman at APR. “The relationships with customers; the relationships with employees and the relationships with manufacturers and manufacturer’s reps are all critical to keeping a company afloat because they’re the foundation for everything we do.”
Maintaining personal ties to all facets of the business is APR’s top priority. It shows in their dedication to helping customers with any size project – from a small, quick fix to supplies for large commercial jobs.
“All customers new and old are equally important,” said Yingst. “Whether they’re looking to buy several thousand dollars worth of heating and cooling equipment, or if they’re only looking for a few PVC pipe elbows, we attend equally to all needs.”
Snyder added, “We do our best to be problem solvers. Sometimes, customers will come in knowing exactly what they want and other times, they’ll come to you for help or direction. So we need to be resourceful and know all aspects of the trade; from the counter to the warehouse. We assist our customers from start to finish.”
Dan Flanagan, of Myerstown, Pa.-based Dale E Wentling Inc., a plumbing & heating contractor, is at APR almost daily. On days Flanagan doesn’t physically go to APR, he submits orders through their streamlined web order entry program.
“I appreciate the ability to place orders online, but I also enjoy walking in the door at APR. It’s nice to see the same familiar faces you know you can trust to help get your job done,” said Flanagan. “They do everything in their power to help me succeed.”
Gerald Musser, of Newmanstown, Pa.-based Earl Musser Plumbing and Heating, says that he and his father have been more-than-once-a-day customers for the past 40 years.
With a constant stream of contractors and homeowners entering the store, a slow day s a rarity.
“Customers always seem to come in waves,” noted Jeff Allison, Counter Sales, and a 230year APR veteran. “Our doors open at 7am and right when we think it’ll be a slow day, like clockwork – at 7:15 – a crowd of contractors arrive. We joke that they all meet for breakfast and come in together.”
Anthony Reikow, a trainer at B.J. Terroni – one of the manufacturer’s rep firms APR works with on a daily basis – said, “APR Supply is the consummate professional resource. “They treat you with the utmost respect and they understand what it takes to keep relationships strong,” he continued. “They maintain a steady balance there, and you immediately get the impression they groom the experience to be that of a good, old-fashioned American company with strong work ethic and discipline. They have the passion and the professionals necessary to drive forward. APR is a pleasure to work with.”
John White III, Taco sales rep said, “During my time working for the Taco sales rep in Pennsylvania [B.J. Terroni], I had the opportunity to work closely with APR Supply, calling on their branches as an outside salesman and attending their Annual Buying Show in Hershey. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Randy Tice and Scott Weaver and I’m proud to call them good friends in the industry. APR Supply isn’t just a great wholesaler, they’re also a great ally of Taco, and I look forward to growing that relationship in years to come."
Nothing but the best
Additional key components to APR’s success are the quality products they carry.
“I’ve been a customer of APR for over 13 years now,” said Daniel Ginder, co-owner D&D Ginder Plumbing, Heating and Electrical. “The products APR carries are a great match for the high quality of their customer service.”
APR Branch Manager Jeff Seyfert says they carry “only the best products the market has to offer. Why compromise? “We stock our shelves and warehouses with products and technology we’ve known and trusted for decades. Generally, the manufacturers that excel today are those that have proved to us through the years that they can exceed customer expectations – and ours. Taco not only makes a reliable product, but their rep firm, BJ Terroni, goes above and beyond for us. Our customers know that with products like Taco, Watts, Watts Radiant, Modine, Fujitsu and Bradford White – they’re getting products that consistently exceed everyone’s expectations.”
APR is a third-generation wholesaler. In 1934, Mark Tice began working for Lebanon Plumbing Supply Co., founded in 1922. Mark Tice purchased a controlling interest in 1947. In 1971, Mark’s son Randy Tice and his wife Sarah joined the industry, launching their own controls business in 1975, Environmental Equipment Engineering, Co. The two companies merged in 1982 to form APR Supply Co. Now the company is owned by the third generation.
Gina Wessner, APR Inside Sales for over 15 years says she loves what she does: “It really is a family environment. In the literal sense, we have lots of family-operated businesses that work with us regularly. My husband is a contractor and works with us, too. But in the figurative sense – we’re all family. We have a fantastic team.”
Rachel Ruhl is a writer and account manager for Common Ground, a Manheim, Pa.-based trade communications firm focused on the plumbing and mechanical, HVAC, geothermal and radiant heat industries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.