In the early 20th century, the Texas oil boom was off and running with the discovery of a large petroleum reserve near Beaumont, Texas. The find ushered in an age of rapid growth and development, placing the Lone Star state on the map as one of the leading oil-producing states in the United States.
During that time, it was commonplace for an oil company to rent a line of pipe for use. When the project/site was completed, the pipe was returned to the distributor, and the cycle of renting would continue. In 1918, Meyer Rauch seized the opportunity to be a part of the ever-growing industry and started Texas Pipe and Supply, renting pipe and selling field equipment. Established in Humble, Texas, Rauch decided the company needed to be in the center of it all and moved the company to Houston.
What Rauch started in 1918 has grown tremendously over the years through family leadership and dedicated employees. In 1932, as the oil industry boomed and pipeline construction increased, the company expanded its operations into the sales of casing, tubing and line pipe. By 1961, Texas Pipe and Supply moved into its present Houston location on Holmes Road and set its focus on specializing in line pipe. In 2003, company leadership enhanced the firm’s presence in the petrochemical industry by adding stainless steel pipe, fittings and flanges.
Today, Texas Pipe and Supply remains a family-owned and -operated business and is a distributor of carbon and stainless steel line pipe and stainless steel fittings and flanges. Focused primarily on selling to the resellers, the company has also strategically targeted EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) companies, oil and gas firms and fabricators primarily located on the Gulf Coast. The company has more than 300 employees and acquired four other companies along the way – Energy Metals, Dodson Global, Installoy, and SFG (Stainless Fittings Group).
With its corporate headquarters and primary distribution facility in Houston, the company carries an expansive inventory of more than 175,000 tons, the majority of which is housed in a 150-acre pipe yard and 500,000 square feet of warehouse space in Houston. Another 200 acres of pipe yard and 450,000 square feet of warehouse space are found throughout the company’s other nine locations in Corpus Christi, Texas; Morgan City, La.; Auburndale, Fla.; Hammond, Ind.; Middlesex, N.J.; Charlotte, N.C.; Mobile, Ala.; and Commerce City, Colo.
Texas Pipe’s customer base consists of other resellers across the country who rely upon its vast inventory of standard and line pipe in all sizes (from 1/8 inch to 60 inches) as well as stainless pipe, fittings and flanges.
“We are primarily a reseller and inventory is our service,” states Keith Rubenstein, president of Texas Pipe and Supply, and a fourth-generation family member, who is part of a team that runs the company. “We carry a large inventory, so our customer doesn’t have to.” It requires a dedicated team to keep the process running smoothly.
Rubenstein is quick to point out that although Texas Pipe and Supply is a family-owned company, “This company is the people who work here.” And the pride in work and dedication by the employees has helped the company survive and thrive for more than 100 years.
Customization and Service are Crucial
Customized inventory and customer service set the company apart. Service is paramount for customer satisfaction, so each location provides a full range of value-added services such as cutting, threading and grooving. Dedicated inventories for the production, gathering and transmission segments of the energy industry are also strategically located across the country. “The branch manager determines the focus of each branch inventory,” Rubenstein explains. “Our real strength is the ability to deliver small shipments to multiple locations across the country in concise time frames.”
To do this requires strategic implementation; the company operates more than 80 pieces of equipment in its yards to ensure it is equipped to handle orders of any size. In a way, it is like managing a city to operate the company, as the locations have more than eight miles of roads on its properties.
The company has efficiency and reliability down to a science. It maintains a rail spur, which allows it to take shipments directly from domestic mills around the country without the need for a third-party unloading facility. “This helps us minimize costs by not having to pay a third-party logistics company to unload the cars and deliver the products to our yard,” Rubenstein states. “It also allows us to receive material on a timelier basis because we do not have to wait for a third party.” In addition, Texas Pipe and Supply employs an international sales team and bilingual staff to assist with global sales. All export orders include customs invoices, certificates of origin for material, NAFTA certificates for sales to Mexico and Canada, and so on.
As when Rauch started the company, inventory and customer service are the cornerstones to its success, and the family sets the example. When Rubenstein’s father and uncle ran the business, he says they arrived at work by 5:30 a.m. each day and worked 10 to 12 hours a day, five days a week. They also worked Saturdays as needed and traveled on Sundays to avoid wasting a business day on travel. Even though the workday officially started at 8 a.m., if someone arrived after 6 a.m. they were considered late, Rubenstein recalls. This same work ethic has been passed down to the current generation and is ingrained in the company culture.
When asked what the key is to 100-plus years of success, Rubenstein says, “We keep our heads down and work hard.”
The Rubenstein family credits employee dedication to the success of the company.
“Working at Texas Pipe feels like being part of a larger family, where you feel a sense of belonging,” Rubenstein notes. “That is the main driving force behind our company culture. We focus on our customer, just like all businesses, but what has been passed down from generation to generation is a culture of hard work and a true family atmosphere, where every employee is valued and treated like a member of the family.”
It’s easy to see the affinity the family has for its employees, and how they connect with customers — making a track record of 100 years in business a starting point.
It starts with the recruitment process. Realizing that although the industry is not the most glamorous, it is rewarding, the company uses employee recommendations to bring in qualified candidates. Many employees have long tenure and can attest to the unique company culture that helps it achieve success. The company looks for the right fit, Rubenstein notes. “We look for those individuals who have been in the workforce and want to connect with a smaller organization where they can make a difference — that is our thrust.”
All new hires go through a six-month training program that educates them on the yard, warehouse, logistics, accounting, sales and purchasing operations. The advanced training program aids significantly in getting workers up to speed in the PVF business and in the company itself, Rubenstein says.
With an open-door policy of having all levels of management accessible to each employee, it sends the message of teamwork and an “all in it together” attitude. The cohesiveness of the employee team extends to the company culture of supporting the causes of its team members.
Several times a year, Texas Pipe connects with charities across the country that employees have a relationship with and partner in the support. “We are aware of the different causes our employee family is a part of — we want to mirror that in our charitable giving,” Rubenstein notes.
Expansion and the Future
Over the last 10 years, Texas Pipe has grown through a driven strategy of acquisition as well as an organic start. The distributor acquired four companies centered around the midstream and downstream business, bringing the employee count to more than 650.
All the companies operate independently and maintain a separate sales staff, allowing the sales group to specialize in one set of products and become experts in their inventory sector. This way when customers call, they are speaking with someone who knows their product inside and out, and can return a quote within hours, not days. “The salesforce’s ability to specialize in their company’s product enables us to serve customers more efficiently,” Rubenstein says. “This further ensures that all the companies under the Texas Pipe and Supply umbrella ‘do it right the first time.”
In 2010, the company acquired Energy Metals Inc., a master distributor of specialty stainless steel and high-grade nickel alloy pipe, fittings and flanges. The company is headquartered in Houston — sharing the same hallways as that of Texas Pipe’s headquarters — with sales offices in Singapore and the United Kingdom.
In 2014, Texas Pipe purchased Dodson Global Inc., a master distributor of carbon steel weld fittings, flanges, forged steel fittings and valves. The company is now headquartered on the same campus as Texas Pipe, having celebrated the opening of its new facility earlier this year. It has five branches throughout the country. Included in the purchase was OVC (Ohio Valve Company), as Dodson is the primary master distributor for the Ohio Valve product line.
In late 2014, an organic start launched Installoy, an instrumentation tubing distributor, that services the oil field industry mostly to electrical distributors, OEM’s and end users.
The most recent acquisition to date happened in 2018, with the purchase of SFG (Stainless Fittings Group), a manufacturer of stainless steel stub ends, concentric reducers and plate flanges.
Giving Back to the Community
The company has always held a belief of helping, extending a hand up, enriching the lives and livelihood of its employees and the community. The form of community giveback is unique — it’s about improving the soul through art and community space.
The Rubenstein family has a love of art, especially CEO Jerry Rubenstein (Keith’s uncle), who started to incorporate artwork inside the corporate headquarters’ facility more than 25 years ago. His eye is exceptional and eclectic; he collected artwork from around the world and much of it hangs in the offices in Houston.
What started on a smaller scale turned into something much larger. Jerry Rubenstein purchased a towering hippopotamus figure from a statuary in El Campo, Texas. The immense size of the piece dictated an ample space and was placed at the edge of the Texas Pipe and Supply property, overlooking Texas Highway 288. Employee Ron Lee, a welder as well as an artist, was inspired by the Rubenstein art collection and drew a spider statue to complement the hippo. Fabricating the mega piece of art out of steel using supplies from the company, the spider sculpture appeared, along with many others from his vision and hands. He became the artist in residence, and what started as a lone piece of art turned into what is now formally called the Eclectic Menagerie.
The Eclectic Menagerie’s massive steel sculptures are whimsical and substantial and have been an exciting addition to the Texas landscape. Locals and tourists come to see the statues of Snoopy, a jet plane, a dinosaur, and other wildlife as well as a mega fishing pole sculpture reeling in a life-size pickup truck. Lee passed away a few years ago, but the company continues to add new and creative art pieces to the Eclectic Menagerie. It remains a local favorite destination.
The philanthropy has not stopped at the Eclectic Menagerie. Several years ago, brothers Jerry and Bo Rubenstein wanted to give back to the community in a different way — something personal. They purchased a 5-acre tract of land in Bellaire, Texas, and donated it back to the city they called home — but with two stipulations. It had to be turned into a park for the community to enjoy and named Evelyn’s Park, to honor their matriarch. Evelyn Rubenstein had a generous spirit for giving back and a love for the outdoors. And so, it came to fruition — Evelyn’s Park brings the community together to enjoy a respite in nature, surrounded by a beautifully sculpted landscape and adorned with a statue of the tea party from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.
What is apparent at Texas Pipe and Supply is that the employees work very hard to ensure the success of the company — as they feel part of the family. A family trait passed down through generations — taking care of others.