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In March 2018, Lehman Pipe celebrated the opening of its new 93,000-square-foot facility that sits on 10 acres near the Miami airport. More than a celebration of the building, it was a celebration of family, which includes the employees that made it the success it is today. With more than 500 customers, suppliers, vendors, employees and friends all gathered to celebrate, Dennis Lehman welcomed the crowd by saying, “As I said in the beginning, all of you are the brick and mortar of Lehman Pipe. Nothing would be possible without all of the people I work with.”
Lehman told the story of how the company started, pointing to his mother Betty (aka Foxy) in the front of the crowd, “The reality of all this is simple. If Foxy had not had so much chutzpah, Lehman Pipe would not be here today.”
In 1940, Julian Lehman was employed at his family company, and engaged to his future bride, Betty. In a review, he was promised a $100 raise by a specific date in time. When the date arrived, Lehman was told the increase would not happen. Lehman, ultra-conservative, was reluctant to react. When Betty found out, she was livid and told Lehman to quit: “If you don’t quit, there will be no marriage,” Betty exclaimed. Lehman left, found another job, and after a few years went off to serve during World War II, where he participated in the Battle of the Bulge and received the Bronze Star.
When he returned home, a good friend, Max Gerber, owner of Gerber Plumbing Fixtures, offered him a management job. Betty was in the room and waved her hand and said, “Mr. Gerber, we are never going to work for anybody again, and we’re going to go into wholesale plumbing distribution.” So off they went to seek their fortune with the money Lehman won on the troop boat home playing craps and the few dollars Foxy had saved.
In 1946, they established Lehman Pipe and Plumbing Supply in Miami, serving mainly hardware stores. In 1974, their son Dennis joined the company and directed its focus toward becoming a PVF supply house. Under his direction, and the hard work of the employees, the business flourished and expanded into the Caribbean, Central, and South America.
While the business was thriving, so was the neighborhood in which it stood, which was becoming a burgeoning art district. Lehman realized he could move the company forward in another way. The timing was right; he sold the land, and instead of calling it quits, he felt it was right to invest in the people and employees that helped make the company so successful.
Selling strictly wholesale, Lehman built a new building that sits on 10 acres and is a state-of-the-art-facility complete with a fitness center, Wi-Fi, fiber optics, and fun amenities that improve the customer experience. The warehouse, approximately 84,000 square feet, is designed for cantilever racking, shipping, and receiving. Included in the footprint is a 24,00-square-foot two-lane, drive-through pipe yard that houses steel pipe, copper tube, CPVC pipe, PVC 80 Pipe, stainless steel pipe, and more. The outside yard utilized approximately 120,000-square-feet for its PVC pipe, SDR and C900 pipe, cast iron pipe, and fittings.
Customers sign-in to place themselves in a queue. They can monitor their place in line by watching two large television monitors that sit above a 1,500-square-foot service counter. Focused on improving the experience, the queue system tracks the time it takes a customer to be called on and the time spent serving the customer. The process ties back into the continued goal to improve service times and overall customer satisfaction.
The company is run by Josh Aberman, executive vice president, who Lehman calls, “My right-hand arm.” Lehman is always quick to acknowledge the hard work of all the employees and to thank the vendors and suppliers that have been amazing partners. Always looking to do more, the event included a raffle, with prizes donated by sponsors, with all proceeds donated to The Payton Nash Foundation, Inc, The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through Great Strides, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Lehman has been a great partner with NIBCO since they opened in 1946. We are excited for them as they enter this new phase of business. I know this step forward will continue to make them successful in the future. Congratulations!” said Ashley Martin, NIBCO.
“I have known Dennis for more than 25 years thru the Embassy Group. We have spent much time together both at Embassy meetings and traveling together. His foresight was evident at the grand opening on Friday at his new warehouse. It is a testament to his devotion to our great industry.” The state of the art warehouse he has built will ensure the success of Lehman Pipe and the careers of its associates for many years,” said Frank Finkel, Ferguson.
Alan Mirson, Independent Pipe and Supply Co. stated, “Dennis embodies the best in our industry. With his wit, kindness, and selflessness he has created an atmosphere for Lehman Plumbing that is truly apparent in how his employees, friends, and suppliers show great appreciation. His new facility is truly a combined effort of his love of this industry and the efforts of his team.”
To celebrate past and present, shining brightly on the wall in the customer waiting area is the original Lehman Pipe Plumbing sign from the old building. The sign serves as a beacon and reminder to all of what is old is new again.