PORTLAND, Ore. - Just who was the Johnstone who started Johnstone Supply back in 1953? Actually, it was two men, Johnson and Stone, who combined their last names to create Johnstone Supply.

Initially focused on refrigeration parts, the store was soon purchased by John Shank, who also established the original Johnstone Supply catalog, which remains a comprehensive parts and supplies resource, with both printed and online versions.

This year marks Johnstone Supply Inc.'s 50th year in business. Calling itself "the largest cooperative HVACR wholesale parts and products distributor in the country," Johnstone plans to celebrate with customers, vendors and staff throughout the year, culminating with a special 50th anniversary event at its 2003 annual meeting.

Shank grew the business through three decades and established more than a dozen company stores and 20 franchises. Before retiring, Shank was determined to pass along the company's success to its store owners and staff, and the company was restructured to become a cooperative.

By 1981, Johnstone had completed the transition into a cooperative business, owned entirely by store owners who share resources for marketing and buying.

Johnstone Supply now has more than 270 stores nationwide, offering more than 20,000 parts from 400 manufacturers. The company's two regional distribution centers cover more than 30,000 square feet. The cooperative continues to add new member stores each year, and in 2002 posted record store-sales growth.

"The Johnstone 50th anniversary is a great opportunity for us to celebrate and reinforce the core company values of service, quality, and teamwork that have made Johnstone so successful through the years," said Johnstone President Gary Daniels.