HAYWARD, Calif. - There’s an old adage that says “the family that plays together stays together.” But in the HVAC industry, you could say “the family that works together can accomplish a profitable distribution company.”
Geary Pacific Supply is one such company. The second-generation, family-owned company celebrated its 50th anniversary Feb. 10. Over the past several decades, the distributor has been able to expand from one shop to 15 locations in Nevada, California, Texas, Oregon and Arizona.
To celebrate, Geary Pacific held open houses at each of its locations throughout the month of February. Customers were invited to meet Geary Pacific staff, learn about new products from manufacturer representatives, and have lunch. Snips visited the company’s location in Hayward, Calif., to find out how the family-owned business has stayed profitable and expanded over the last 50 years.
BeginningsGeary Pacific Supply didn’t start out as a wholesale distribution company. According to Russell Geary, vice president of Geary Pacific, his father, Pat Geary, started his own contracting business in the 1950s. Pat was a sheet metal apprentice and later went on to installing Lennox equipment for customers in Fullerton and Apple Valley, Calif. Even then, the company was a family affair, with aunts and uncles involved in making the business a success.
However, in 1961, Pat Geary decided it might be advantageous to start looking at “niche markets.” Instead of installing the systems, he found it could be profitable to supply the products that contractors were looking for. The decision paid off, and Pat Geary, along with uncle Les Sherden, started distributing Revco heating and air-conditioning products.
Over the next several decades, the company would continue to evolve. Bard Manufacturing acquired Revco’s air-conditioning business in 1969, which created a partnership between the supplier and wholesaler. In 1969, the distributor purchased Pacific Air in Sacramento, Calif., and later opened a third location in Phoenix in 1974.
By 1976, Sherden retired and the company changed its name to Geary Pacific Corp. The corporation would soon have a total of 15 locations throughout the Western U.S., supplying a number of major products from companies such as Goodman Manufacturing, Bard and Modular Metal Fabricators.
Now in its 50th year, Pat Geary is still president of the company. At 82, he is still “very active in the company. He’s doing what he loves,” said his son, Russell.
Family businessBut Russell Geary never planned on being a part of the company. When he was younger, he said Geary Supply “was a place to get into a summertime job.”
Eventually, “one thing led to another” and Russell joined the company. But he wasn’t the only one. His two sisters also came on board. And when they married, their husbands found positions with Geary Supply.
Russell’s sister Grace works in the equipment purchasing department, while her husband Brian is the company’s vice president of credit. Sister Suzanne is in the position of corporate office management, and her husband, Layne Miller, is the vice president of marketing, sales and operations.
Like Russell Geary, Miller also did not think having a career at Geary Pacific was in his future. However, his new father-in-law made working for the company a difficult offer to refuse.
“(Pat Geary) is a super-generous, unbelievable guy,” he said.
Miller was hired in 1981, and over the next 30 years he saw that the “family business” didn’t just apply to those with the Geary name. There are approximately 130 people that work for the company in its various locations. Some workers have been with the company 15 to 25 years.
“We all take care of one another,” Miller said. “The company is the family and the family is the company.”
As for the grandchildren of Pat Geary, Miller’s middle daughter has taken on the responsibility of producing the company newsletter. Her boyfriend has also shown some signs of interest in what the company does. But according to Russell Geary and Miller, they are not pushing their children into the business. This is mostly because they never felt pushed into the business.
“We’re OK with it,” said Russell Geary. “It will still be in the family.”
EvolutionWhile the company started small with one location and just a few family members as employees, the goal was never to become a huge corporation.
“The objective has never been to be big,” Miller said. “The focus has always been to be the best.”
He explained that Pat Geary expanded the company when there was a clear need. If there was a market in a specific state or city that needed distribution services, the company would expand. Geary Pacific still has that same philosophy. The company keeps its eyes open on what is new in the industry and what can be done to provide new services and products for the marketplace.
For example, Geary Pacific Supply will soon expand its product offerings to include parts and controls. It’s just one more market the company is looking to provide to its customers. It also shows that the company is changing as its customers change, officials said.
But Miller said that being a successful distributor is more than just having the right products. It’s also about teaming up with the right manufacturers.
“We find customers that we know fit what we can do,” he said. “We are selective in the customers we use.”
And once Geary Pacific finds customers they can successfully partner with, Miller says the key is customer service. The company goes out of its way to give each specific customer what it is they need. To keep customers, Geary Pacific makes sure they service “the heck out of them,” he said.
For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.