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VP stays ahead of the curve and thrives

by tcarosa

The Rochester Top 100, which annually recognizes the fastest-growing privately held companies in the nine-county region, is sponsored by the Rochester Business Alliance and KPMG.

Mon, Jan 10th 2011 03:00 pm
Democrat & Chronicle  [ View Original Article ]

Please tell us a little about your company's history.

Marv Miller and Elliot Curwin bought the company in 1965. We started out in an 86,000-square-foot building on the corner of Brown and Broad streets. It was originally a grain elevator, then the city morgue and eventually a junk dealer's warehouse.

When Marv and Elliot bought it, there were three other employees. We started selling new house plumbing in greater Rochester. Gary Perkins and Gary and Louis Curwin now run it, and we have been blessed with a great deal of talent to help us run this company.

Your company was founded during a boom time for Rochester. How have you continued to grow as Rochester's building rate has slowed?

Our original expansion was from growing our geography and product. More recently, we expanded by adding branches and whole new product groups like kitchens, specialty heating and renewable energy. And when new construction has slowed, remodeling has usually picked up. Hadar Kamal, who oversees our showrooms, has been instrumental in keeping them modern and exciting. The market changes so quickly, and he helps us stay ahead of the curve. An example is we used to sell whirlpool tubs as an upgrade. The market has switched to air tubs as luxury upgrade.

VP Supply's current footprint reaches from Utica to Buffalo now. What challenges arise from being so spread out?

We are in Erie, Pa., as well now, and are negotiating expansions in the Albany and Plattsburgh markets. We have built a reputation for service and caring about our customers as well as our employees. We try to keep the small-company personal service as a culture throughout our company.

What benefits have come from that growth?

First of all, better buying power. Local contractors get jobs across the state, and we can service them in most major upstate New York cities. And each branch is unique, so all our locations have expertise and products that all the branches can share from. An example is our Auburn branch, which has one of the most knowledgeable persons about oil heat in the whole Northeast.

Quite a few of your employees have been with the company more than two decades. How do you explain such longevity?

As we grew, we had to learn to empower our employees. We have tried to create groups within the company that run as their own business. We give them the support they need and let them run with a lot of autonomy. Most of our employees thrive being given this level of decision-making.

VP Supply recently entered the green energy market, providing materials for wind turbines and geothermal energy. How has that line done for you?

It started slowly. There were a lot of regulations to learn. We hired Mike Parks, who ran his own renewable energy company, to start that division. He shared our vision of trying to bring renewable energy to a price level most people can afford, albeit with government tax credits and grants. It is our fastest growing division now.

You and your brother are second-generation VP Suppliers. What made you decide to follow your dad and his partner into the business?

VP was more like a culture than a business. Gary and I grew up with many second-generation contractors who have been over-30-year customers. A lot of our Rochester employees we grew up with as well. It's a business you either love or hate. I guess it's in our blood.

The Great Recession is supposedly over. What signs of that has your business seen?

Our showroom is the first barometer of where building is going. We have seen an increase in consumers coming into the showroom who have been sent in by builders.

Am I reading right that you take customers on trips? What's that all about?

We sponsor a yearly trip for our customers. It is a combination incentive and appreciation for the business they give us. This is our fourth year of the trip and many of the customers have made all four trips. It's been fun watching contractors from all over the state make friendships on the trip. We tried to make a program fair for our smallest to our largest customer. So if you sign up, you can get 1 percent of your purchases toward the trip, which has five-star accommodations and is all-inclusive. We keep it reasonably priced by getting over 200 people per trip. This year's lucky group is coming with us to Costa Rica.

VP Supply Corp., No. 70

Wholesale plumbing, HVAC, renewable energy systems.
Year founded: 1965.
Location: 3445 Winton Place, Henrietta.
Executives: Gary Curwin, 49, of Pittsford, president; Gary Perkins, 51, of Henrietta, vice president; Louis Curwin, 54, of Honeoye Falls, owner/partner.
Employees: 230.


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