Last year marked the 100th anniversary of Mesher Supply and the company is not just sustaining business, it’s thriving as a result of its founder’s business philosophy.
When N.B Mesher founded the company in Portland, Ore., in 1918, he made every stride toward providing customers with high-quality products in a timely and cost-effective manner. Over the course of four generations, his family continued to build the business’ success and growth on that philosophy.
Originally and during certain times like the Great Depression, Mesher Supply served more than plumbers. However, the business slowly evolved into a plumbing supply warehouse that has grown consistently throughout the years. Current owners Barbara and Jud Longaker attribute the company’s continued success to customer satisfaction.
“This philosophy really took root when Mark Mesher [Barbara Longaker’s father] moved the business into the second generation,” Director of Operations Connecticut Longaker says. “His idea was to make Mesher Supply a place where customers would come to find anything for their plumbing needs. We specialize in very unique parts and things that are hard to find. If you need something and no one else has it, Mesher Supply will have it.”
When big-box stores started opening in Oregon, Mesher Supply stayed viable by selling both oddity parts and what the average plumber needs. “We kept it simple for the customer and that worked as long as it could, but as we got into the 2000s there was a change in technology and growth in Portland,” Longaker says, adding that 2008-2012 was a very strenuous time for the business.
“In 2012, we brought back key employees and started driving our efforts toward construction,” Longaker says. “We started getting jobs as a result of the development boon happening in Portland. It was a gamble that paid off. Now it’s a majority of what we’re doing, along with big commercial projects.”
Mesher Supply is a member of the Women’s Business Enterprise for the state of Oregon. As a women-owned business, it is in a unique position to meet the minimum requirement for minority usage when developers earn contracts with the state.
“Because we are a minority business, we satisfy that rule,” Longaker says. “The plumbers, who are subcontractors on those projects, will also utilize us for their needs for other commercial jobs. But we have never crossed off the mom-and-pop service that made us who we are. A lot of our smaller customers still function the same as they did 20 years ago. We haven’t lost those relationships, even though we moved into commercial business.”
Mesher Supply’s executive management team also includes Controller Kris Stewart, Human Resources Director Nicole Longaker and Nate Olsen, head of business development and sales. “Nate’s a key employee who returned and has done a tremendous job building relationships with contractors and project managers,” Longaker says. “He’s the best in the business. He has a great work ethic and is super knowledgeable.”
Longaker also notes her right-hand man, an inventory specialist who assists her in operations, Chris Oestman, and all of the branch managers who “do a wonderful job of keeping the branches moving forward and growing” as key personnel.
Mesher Supply currently has three branches in Oregon, one in Portland, one in Seaside and one in Redmond, and approximately 50 employees. “In the next year, our goal is to get another branch open,” Longaker says. “As the construction boon changes in Portland and slows, we are in a unique position to take on the facilities and maintenance needs of our customers.”
While Mesher Supply has many competitors that are a lot larger, it excels because “we are a tight-knit family business that is really fortunate to have great people who are knowledgeable in the industry,” Longaker says. “We’re well-known in the industry and because we’re a family-owned business, we have a lot of employees long-term. It was their first job ever and they are still with us today. We treat everyone like family.”
Membership in Omni Corporate Services, which merged with Equity Plumbing on Jan. 1 to form IMARK Plumbing, also helps the small business remain competitive in the industry, as it provides Mesher Supply with better pricing. “This new collaboration increases our buying power,” Longaker says, regarding the merger.
She also said the relationships Mesher Supply has developed with its vendor-partners in the group have been amazing. Barbara and Jud Longaker started a fund shortly after the untimely passing of their daughter, Rebecca, in 1988 as a way to memorialize Rebecca’s kindness and generosity. Since that time, Rebecca’s Fund has supported hundreds of children by giving them access to safe, affordable and enriching after-school programming at Friendly House.
In celebration of its 100th year in business, Mesher Supply asked its Omni Corporate Services business partners to make a donation to Rebecca’s Fund and raised $205,200, the largest donation Friendly House has ever received.
“John Aykroyd [former president of Omni Corporate Services and the new president of IMARK Plumbing] was here when we unveiled the check,” Longaker says. “It was a real testament to how membership translates. We received all of this support from these vendors that we have done business with for quite some time. This truly showed how effective this relationship through Omni has been for us.”
For more information about Mesher Supply Wholesale Plumbing, visit meshersupply.com.