The current leadership team at Ace Stainless Supply has successfully built the business on a foundation of commitment, determination, customer satisfaction, sales-savvy and passion.
Ace Stainless Supply thrives on an unwavering commitment to excellence, driven by a potent mix of determination, unwavering customer satisfaction, sales acumen, and an undying passion for their trade. Tom Murphy and Ed Long, the co-owners, took the reins of this Santa Ana, California-based business on November 2, 2020, initiating a transformational journey that has redefined the company. For four decades, Ace Stainless offered a range of commodity stainless products, including nipples, flanges, steel bars, sanitary fittings and fasteners. However, the last three years have witnessed a remarkable evolution, with Ace Stainless categorizing their business into three highly specialized market segments:
1. Advanced Technologies Division:** This division, fortified by strategic alliances with industry leaders such as SVF Valves, Steel Obrian, Wayland, Rath Gibson, United Tube and Superlok compression fittings, stands as the vanguard of innovative solutions. Their mission extends beyond mere product provision; Ace Stainless endeavors to enrich the overall customer experience.
Industrial Division: The Industrial Division epitomizes excellence. By partnering with trusted vendors like Bonney Forge, Weldbend, Lamons, Kelly Pipe and EA Gray, Ace Stainless offers an exhaustive catalog of industrial products. It’s not just about supplying products; it’s about being a dependable partner who comprehends the distinctive needs of industrial clients.
3. Commercial Division:** Acknowledging the distinct requisites of the commercial sector, Ace Stainless maintains a well-stocked inventory of complete mechanical room systems. Renowned brands such as Victaulic, Jomar and United Pipe dominate this division. They aim to serve as a one-stop solution provider for commercial clients, providing convenience and top-tier products that streamline project management.
Murphy is now Ace’s CEO while Long is the company’s president and chief financial officer. The duo has catapulted Ace Stainless into exponential growth with work ethics and business strategies they both learned throughout their career trajectories within plumbing distribution.
Today, Ace Stainless’ team is made up of 20 employees. Long and Murphy have successfully recruited team members from outside of the plumbing distribution industry and teach employees the business’ fundamentals, best practices and core values from the ground up. Long can often be found spending the last half hour of each day going through American Supply Association manuals with the team.
While the co-owners spend a lot of time training employees to buy, sell, pick, pack and operate forklifts, they are not big on company meetings beyond their Monday motivational meetings during which they review the prior week’s performance and start each week with a morale boost.
They attribute a lot of their central business strategies to their former CEO at Columbia Specialty Co., where they started working together in 2008. Both spent more than a decade there until the business was acquired by a private equity firm in the fall of 2020.
“We loved the job,” Murphy said. “We loved working for a family-owned independent company for years. We were all about the customer experience, inventory and service. We said yes. Even if a product wasn’t in the catalog, that didn’t mean we didn’t provide it.”
Already known as workhorses in the industry, the duo was soon deemed “the fixers” when they started growing Columbia branches that weren’t turning a profit. “If a location was not profitable and we were losing more than a quarter, we’d go in and review and fix it,” Murphy said.
Long said they turned the failing locations around by transforming them into hub-and-spoke-style distribution centers. “We also built team morale and had a lot of fun,” he said.
Murphy, who started working in plumbing distribution in high school, went into sales in 2010. “You never really leave sales,” he said. “I’m doing it right now for Ace Stainless. In this business you are ultimately always doing sales. It’s something I love and am passionate about.”
Long served as vice president of the northern California region for Columbia before he and Murphy decided to team up and embark on the Ace Stainless journey. “Our CEO John Fitzgerlad taught us about people,” Murphy said. “He was really a guy who cared about people and didn’t always look at dollars, and that’s something we took with us.”
After Fitzgerald passed away in 2016, Columbia underwent management changes until the private equity firm came in and acquired it. “We were the up-and-coming leaders within the Columbia organization,” Long said. “It was the entrepreneurial spirit that brought us together at Columbia.”
The opportunity to acquire Ace Stainless presented itself to Murphy and Long almost simultaneously with the Columbia acquisition. “I received a phone call about a shiny new toy in the marketplace in Orange County and it didn’t take us long to meet with the owners,” Murphy said. “We struck a deal in less than a month. The timing was phenomenal.”
Murphy and Long opened Ace Stainless’ second location in the beginning of this year. “We’re not going anywhere but up,” Murphy said.
Besides their team, Murphy and Long rely on a new ERP system and e-commerce to keep moving Ace Stainless forward. “From the moment we acquired Ace, building out an e-commerce-friendly website was a top priority,” Long said.
Now they are searching for entrepreneurs who want to stake an Ace Stainless flag in other locations throughout the country.
“We’re looking for the next Toms and Eds,” Long said. “We do like the idea of a franchise opportunity, but we have a lot of balls in air and are not in the position to make those ends meet yet.”
For Murphy and Long, “it’s been a crazy fun ride.” “At the end of the day, we’re both service guys. We love this industry. We love distribution and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to build something of our own that will serve customers from all over the map while simultaneously providing an opportunity for entrepreneurship to others.”
Beyond their dedication to vendors, Ace Stainless enthusiastically supports IMARK Plumbing membership. They hold great respect for IMARK’s leadership, which has set its sights on developing and aligning with PVF vendors and manufacturers. Ace Stainless stands ready to facilitate the development and support of the IMARK PVF Division in every conceivable manner. They eagerly anticipate contributing to strengthening the group in terms of membership and vendor alliances.
Moreover, Ace Stainless is acutely aware of IMARK’s extensive following in the plumbing supply industry. They are unwavering in their commitment to bolstering the success of all IMARK members. Their website offers convenient access to pricing, quick budget estimates, and rapid shipping. This reflects their dedicated support for IMARK Plumbing’s rapid and robust growth, mirroring the growth of Ace Stainless Supply.
Murphy encapsulates their partnership with IMARK perfectly: “We are very happy with IMARK and our acceptance into the organization. We can now go to battle and play in the streets with a full-value line.”
For more information on Ace Stainless, visit acestainless.com.