After beginning his career as a manufacturers rep selling product for Hammond Valves and Tyler Pipe, Joseph Martin started importing his own mix of products (including toilets and basket strainers) in the 1980s. But his true breakthrough occurred when he began importing valves from Italy. And after discovering that a distributor had to stock several varieties of valves, Martin later created one that would meet all codes — a product that remains a market mainstay to this day for Warren, Mich.-based Jomar Valve. Supply House Times recently traveled to Warren to visit with Jomar Valve President and CEO Paul Craig and Vice President of Operations Adam Stier. Craig and Stier discussed a number of topics including Jomar’s wide breadth of product offerings, the company’s continued growth and the 50th anniversary it is celebrating this year.
Plumbing & Mechanical: What new innovations has the company debuted of late to best help its customers?
PC: Jomar has always had a group of unique products, but it’s more than just having the best products at the best price. More importantly, we focus on our five-point mission statement: 1. Build products with a brand people can trust; 2. Support the product with knowledgeable, technically trained service and sales staff; 3. Stand behind the product should problems occur; 4. Deliver the product on time; and 5. Provide the most economical value at the best price.
AS: Our focus is on our product lines and providing more value, something that cannot be commoditized. The numbers show we’ve more than doubled and are close to tripling what we offer and that can be attributed to our product line, our improved marketing efforts and the team we have here. Is there a smoking-gun product that has taken us to the next level? Probably not, but we clearly are winning market share because of our ability to be more nimble in the marketplace.
Plumbing & Mechanical: What product category in the line has seen the biggest growth of late?
PC: In the early 1990s, Jomar introduced a line of lockwing ball valves to be used on natural-gas meter sets, before and after the meter. The natural gas industry, typically slow to change, has come to understand the benefit of a brass ball valve vs. cast-iron plug valves. Jomar has enjoyed steady growth in this market and now is one of the market leaders for valves in this application.
On the wholesaler/distributor side of our business, our patented tankless water heater installation kit is steadily growing, largely because of its user-/installer-friendly design and Italian quality. As distributors continue to seek opportunities for growth in commercial markets, our hydronic balancing products are getting more recognition. These products, traditionally sold direct to contractors through buy/sell reps, now are being offered to distributors to complete their commercial product offering. Lastly, our industrial and automation business, once restricted to the “big three-related work,” is now growing through our PVF wholesaler-distribution network and through our propane gas network. Another thing that makes us unique is our strength in both the natural gas and LP industry.
Plumbing & Mechanical: What advantages does Jomar gain from its wide breadth of products?
PC: From the beginning, Mr. Martin’s goal was to be different and that is reflected in our product line. Our products go well beyond residential plumbing. Another driving force behind our breadth of products is our long-standing reputation for quality, which has continued to be the strength of our partner and supplier for many years, Fratelli Pettinaroli. We’ve grown dramatically in the last 10 years.
Plumbing & Mechanical: How important is Jomar’s relationship with the distribution channel and how has that relationship evolved in recent times?
PC: Jomar has not wavered from its commitment to honor our wholesale-distribution channel and our professional end users. We do not sell to retailers or “big box” stores. This is another aspect of Jomar that makes us different from some of our competitors.
Plumbing & Mechanical: What is Jomar doing to take its relationships with distributors and then contractors to the next level?
PC: For many years Jomar has actively applied for vendor membership into all the major industry buying groups, unfortunately without success. I understand there has to be a value to them and for us. They don’t want 10 valve guys in each group. But we have a compelling story to tell and we are prepared to tell it. Eventually we will be important enough that they will take notice.
Most recently, we have become active in ASA along with all the regional ASA groups and that experience has become extremely beneficial. The networking events alone have created opportunities we knew existed but didn’t have access to.
Plumbing & Mechanical: How has the actuation side of the business helped Jomar?
AS: We can actuate anything from 1/4-in. up to 36-in., electrical or pneumatic. That gets us into a lot of different applications. We’ve quoted lines for peanut butter plants to slurry in the oil patch. We’re able to consistently deliver this service and we have a wide range of stock that allows us to quote a large variety of applications for our customers.
Plumbing & Mechanical: What is Jomar doing to celebrate its 50th anniversary?
PC: Celebrating 50 years is a time to reflect on the person that laid the groundwork to get us here. Mr. Martin has left an indelible mark on Jomar. His legacy will be carried on by many young people we have on our team today. We also have to be thankful for our distribution customers that have supported us all these years, the professional tradesmen that have loyally installed our products and continue to ask for them, the engineers who write our products into specifications knowing they can count on Jomar-branded products, and last but not least, our primary supplier and manufacturing partner, Fratelli Pettinaroli, for its cooperation and desire to develop and produce quality, innovative products.
Plumbing & Mechanical: What does the future hold for Jomar?
PC: Our primary goals are to continue to build a team of young professionals with a strong desire to win, to leverage technology and to position Jomar to continue to be a valuable source to our distribution channel and end users in the years to come. Developing new, innovative products is in our DNA and we are going to charge ahead with the path we’re on. We have the people in place to take things to the next level. If you look at the path we started on and our growth over the years, the future is bright.
This article was originally titled “A winning tradition” in the August 2016 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.