Superior Distributors in Elmwood Park, N.J., has come a long way since its start in the trunk of founder Howard Klein's '62 Falcon station wagon in 1962.
Superior Distributors Founder Howard Klein sits in his office in the 1970s. Below, Klein with his granddaughter Dana Klein, chief information officer, and son Rick Klein, vice president.
Although the company had humble beginnings, one conversation with Klein makes it easy to understand why this business didn't just survive, but thrived.
Klein went from selling nuts and bolts out of his trunk to setting up shop in a friend's stable because he couldn't afford office space. "It was small, maybe 10 by 20," says Klein, who likes to joke that he started out just like Jesus. In 1978, he moved the business to its current location in Elmwood Park, N.J. Then, the building was 1,000 square feet. Today, Klein says, they have at least 60,000 square feet.
Superior Distributors prides itself on being a one-stop shop. The company diversified, making it a goal to have a wide range of products from rat poison (for garbage companies) to machetes (for cutting down weeds near railroad tracks).
The company is a popular heavy-duty parts distributor, offering brand names such as Bendix, Truck-Lite, Webb, Baldwin Filters and Meritor.
The company has 25 to 30 trucks on the road daily delivering as far as Delaware and Massachusetts. It's not unusual for Klein make deliveries himself. "It's nice to go out and meet people," he says. "There's a camaraderie with customers and a feeling of being needed."
Service is also a huge priority for the family-owned-and-operated company. "Big companies may have the price, but they may not have the service," Klein says. "I try to make my customers understand that we're partners. The profit is only part of that relationship."
Most people, after 50 years in business, would probably be enjoying retirement somewhere on a beach, but Klein says that's just not for him. "People say 'What are you working for? Come on down to Florida.' But I like it. I don't see ever retiring."
To celebrate the milestone, the company hosted an invitational celebration in May with booths for customers, a Meritor brake clinic in the afternoon and a party in the evening with food, an open bar and prizes.
The grand celebration is warranted because, Klein says, 50 years was no easy feat. "It's been a lot of hard work, but let me tell you, it's been quite a journey."
From the April/May 2012 issue of HDAJ