It’s a testament to a business when it has anniversary milestones that span decades. It’s even more unique when a company reaches such milestones with little or no changes in ownership. It is truly noteworthy when a family-owned business like Power Plumbing in Chicago, Ill., can keep its operations running and in the family for decades on end. The Piccioli family has owned Power Plumbing since its founding in 1960.
Not only has the family been in business for more than half a century, each child of the company’s founder committed his or her entire career to the business. It’s not always the case that there is 100 percent buy-in with the business from immediate family members. Sometimes an uncle, cousin, niece, etc. steps in to keep a business alive. But, Joe, Rae Lynn and Robin Piccioli made things easy on their father, Ray.
Ray Piccioli became a plumber in 1950, after graduating from Chicago’s Washburn Trade School. In fact, Ray was a member of the school’s first graduating class. Not long after graduating, Ray began servicing the Chicagoland area with plumbing and sewer work, while his wife, Betty, ran the office.
Ray’s three children followed in his footsteps by becoming licensed plumbers as young adults. Joe took things a couple of steps further in earning his drain layers and cross connection control licenses. In the 1980s, the Piccioli children officially opened Power Plumbing at its current location on North Ashland Avenue in Chicago.
“We got the name Power Plumbing because when I was 16, I started a plowing company and I called it Power Plowing. Then, when we purchased this building we called it Power Plumbing and have had the name ever since,” said Joe Piccioli, vice president of Power Plumbing.
While some things have changed, such as the company’s service area and increased brand recognition, at its core, Power Plumbing has remained the same.
“We’ve pretty much been doing the same thing since our father started, in terms of plumbing and sewer work,” said Rae Lynn Piccioli, office manager at Power Plumbing. “We’ve always been here, through thick and thin.”
Power Plumbing has grown in recent years to include a staff of approximately 20 employees made up of licensed plumbers and office administrators. The company’s service area has extended outside of the traditional Chicagoland area to include the northern and southern suburbs.
“Our guys take their trucks home. So, if we get a call in Glenview, Ill. then we have a person there,” Joe explained. “Instead of going to the shop they go right to the job and service the customer. It saves our customers money, and it saves time so we’re able to better service them.”
Power Plumbing’s employees come from various professional backgrounds and, as a result, offer an array of specialties to customers. Rae Lynn jokingly explained that the company has everyone on staff from a MacGyver of plumbing to a Jack-of-all-tools who has been playing with devices since he was a baby.
“We’re a full-service plumbing contractor. If we send our guys out to a job and say there’s a water leak that’s running down a pipe from the third floor, and leaking on the first. A lot of times people start opening walls. But, our guys are able to walk through the different floors to locate the leak,” Joe said. “They’re experts in what they’re doing. There are so many different jobs that come about and so many different ways to fix the plumbing and our guys are able to do that.”
On the job, Power Plumbing utilizes products from its manufacturing partners including Moen, Bradford White, Zoeller, and Gerber Plumbing.
“We basically use their products because we find that their products have the best quality,” Joe said. “When we install an item for our customer, we want to make sure that they have the best quality possible.”
In the industry
One practice that Power Plumbing attributes to its longevity in business is the value it places on keeping up with industry technology. To keep up with technology trends, Power Plumbing frequents trade shows and expos. A recent discovery for the company was a small pickup truck that features a hydro jet and 600-gallon tank. The company finds hydro jetting to be one of the best ways to clean sewers, as it allows pipe to receive a 360-degree clean. Hydro jetting now is one of Power Plumbing’s most popular services.
“With the pickup, we would be able to pump out catch basins or storm basins. Right now, any time we need something pumped out we have to call a pumping truck,” Joe explained. “With the truck we would be able to save a little money for our customers. So, we’re in the process of exploring costs and how it’s going to serve our purposes and fit in with our work.”
Power Plumbing also keeps up with new camera offerings, as it utilizes fiber optics to inspect pipes after they have been cleaned by the hydro jets. The cameras assist staff in instances when they are unable to find breaks, exact locations, etc.
“I love technology. I try to hit every plumbing trade show that comes in town,” Joe said. “I go to a show and find a new camera every year. They’re getting better and better so we have to keep up with the technology.”
In addition to attending shows to keep up with the pulse of the industry, Power Plumbing is also actively involved in associations and local commerce chambers. Currently, Power Plumbing is active with the Chicagoland Plumbing Council and the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC).
“We attend the meetings because it’s a good source of information for us,” Rae Lynn said. “We donate to them and help them out, and they help us out. It’s nice to see what the communities are doing and be an active part of all that.”
Relating to the community is important to Power Plumbing. The company regularly helps out at schools and churches, offering their time and materials. They also interact with the community digitally, through their social media page on Facebook.
“On the social media end of things, it’s great to reach out to people because we’re able to provide helpful information to them,” Rae Lynn said. “We also provide many coupons or special discounts on certain types of jobs, and put out reminders as far as checking on something in the house and testing and investigating.”
Whether servicing gas piping, installing water services in sewers, or repairing faucets, Power Plumbing works hard to hear every customer’s problem and help them in some way. Often, Rae Lynn finds the majority of her work day spent providing free advice to callers on the phone and dispatching appointments for in-depth service needs.
“Pretty much anything that has water or drain to it, we’ll work on it,” Joe said.
With a 24-hour emergency call line, Power Plumbing is in business 365 days a year, seven days a week. Working around the clock, the Piccioli’s have seen many things. But, there were two unique situations that they decided to share.
In one instance, Power Plumbing got a call from a management company that reported that the gas company had come in and shut off the gas. Power Plumbing headed over to the site to investigate why the gas company had shut the gas off. Upon arriving, they found that somebody was sweating copper fittings on a gas line. Ultimately, Power Plumbing had to remove the gas piping and reinstall it with black pipe.
“Everything could have blown up!” Rae Lynn said.
In another instance, during one of Chicago’s notoriously cold winters there was a “freeze-up” on a lot of the city’s infrastructure. Power Plumbing received a call on its emergency line. The caller asked them to come to the site where police had been forced to break down the door to a unit. It turned out that the owners of the unit were on vacation, and had turned off their heat while they were away. The result was an entire unit of frozen furniture, clothes, electronics, etc. The plumber who took the call said the unit looked like an ice castle.
Joe noted that its stories such as the previous two that motivate him in his career. He explained that the unexpected nature of plumbing is exciting for him and many of his fellow team members at Power Plumbing.
The team’s commitment to servicing each and every one of its customer’s unique situations has earned it some praises from some high places. Since 2002, Power Plumbing has received more than 34 awards. The company has been honored with the Angie’s List “Super Service Award” for 12 years in a row, the most recent being in 2013. Power Plumbing has also been top-ranked on Yelp, and was recognized by the Chicago Better Business Bureau in 2012.
“Our main focus is to help the customer in whatever way we can help them,” Rae Lynn said. “The customer service is key, it really means a lot to us.”