When he was growing up in the suburbs of New York City, Ken Berke was unsure which direction his work life would take. Although people say that opportunity knocks, it sometimes calls on the phone. Berke was one year out of high school, hanging out at home when the phone rang. It was Ken’s father, Murray Berke, on the line. He and Ken’s mother, Judy, were in Florida with Ken’s brother Stuart. The family traveled to South Florida looking for warehouse space because they wanted to start a wholesale plumbing supply store along with building a new life for the whole family.
At that moment Ken knew his life was changing. His parents offered both brothers a challenge - build a business from the ground up, no matter how hard the task or how difficult the days. It was something Berke knew they could do, but it would take encouragement and hard work to make it a go. His father said, “the company will be called Action Plumbing Supply.” Ken asked why, his father responded, “Because I believe in being first in the phone book.”
In April of 1978, the family took possession of a 5,000 square foot facility. With few funds, no customers, no lines and no manufactures willing to set them up as a distributor; the family needed guidance in a big way. Through the advice of an associate, they learned about a plumbing wholesaler in Miami that enjoyed working with new supply houses.
The associate offered his assistance to get Action Plumbing Supply off the ground. “When I went into the associate’s warehouse and saw the vast inventories racked to the ceiling, and huge pipe yard, I could only imagine that with hard work and determination the same could be accomplished by my family. We could have anything in his warehouse at cost plus 10% as long as we didn’t solicit his customers, and we paid him every month by the 10th,” said Ken Berke. The generosity and admiration both companies had for each other was a partnership that lasted for many years.
Action Plumbing Supply was also fortunate to partner with local stocking reps who opened availability to top lines, which, in turn, lead to more lines becoming available to the company. It was one building block onto another. “I was the first truck driver of the company and spent every day visiting these establishments to pick up material to fill orders and deliver to the customer’s job or shop. If I had to drive 50 miles for one fitting to complete an order, I did it with no hesitation. After all, my dad named us Action, so we had large shoes to fill,” Berke said.
The ringing phone Ken Berke picked up over 40 years ago, along with hard work and determination, has led to a family company thriving in the Plumbing and Industrial PVF business, proudly carrying lines such as American Standard, Sloan, Charlotte Pipe, Milwaukee Valve, Weldbend, Victaulic, NIBCO, and many more. Action Plumbing has also established a luxury fixture business through its Designer Plumbing Showroom division, catering to high-end builders, architects, designers and redistribution to other showrooms. Among some of those lines include Rohl, Grohe, Hansgrohe, Duravit, Dornbracht, California Faucets, Sigma, and many more.
“With three generations of the Berke family in management and ownership — Stuart Berke, president, Ken Berke, vice president, Karen Sadler, controller, and Justin Berke, branch manager — we are grateful for the past 40 years and extremely excited for the next 40 years. Thank you to all the past associates of Action including manufacturers, reps, employees, and the loyal customers that have helped make us a viable source for our industry and community,” Ken Berke said.
Congratulations to 40 years, and here’s to the next 40!