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 Subject : Personal History, by Mel Kirsner, Pell Mell Supply.. 10/27/2011 04:11:15 PM 

Customers Dumped With Unlisted Numbers - 1995

Twenty years ago when Mel Kirsner, now retired president of Pell Mell Supply, Inc. of San Diego, California, was faced with a shortage of fasteners he alleviated it by putting a “Closed for Inventory” sign on his front door and getting an unlisted telephone number.

“I went over my customer list and mailed a letter to my better customers giving them our new telephone numbers, which were unlisted,” Kirsner told the Western Association of Fastener Distributors spring conference in Arizona.

“The customers that I didn’t want to keep were also sent a letter, stating that I would no longer be able to service them. They didn’t get the new telephone numbers. The front door sign remained there for over two years.”

“I didn’t solicit any new business and my plan really worked. I got rid of the customers I didn’t like—the customers who never ordered the right product, the ones who nickeled and dimed me to death and all the slow pay accounts. There are still some of the rejected customers that will not speak to me. It also kept new salesmen away—but the ones that were helping me were allowed to come in the back door."

Western Starts Heritage Project With Kirsner’s Pell Mell History

Mel Kirsner inaugurated the West-em Association of Fastener Distributors fastener heritage project with an anec­dotal history of how business was done just a generation ago.

WAFD president Bobby Barnhill asked members and anyone connected to the fastener industry to write notes or make tapes and send them to the as­sociation to be included in an ongoing history book.

Kirsner, a charter member of WAFD, displayed a portion of his fas­tener museum at the association's spring conference at the Wigwam Re­sort in Litchfield Park, Arizona.

Kirsner started in the fastener busi­ness with Reliable Pipe Supply, which was owned by his father and grandfa­ther, but quit when rejected for a raise. "My granddad would always say that I shouldn't worry, that someday I would own the business," Kirsner recalled.

After a sales stint with another firm, Kirsner opened Pell Mell Supply in 1963 in San Diego. He sold his home to buy his first inventory. "I ordered one box of every size in stock of Grades 2, 5 and 8," Kirsner recalled. Acknowledging that he soon learned it was not the way to go into distribution, he conceded that some of his initial stock remains on the shelves today.

While establishing his business he ushered at a race track to put bread on the table. He collected wooden boxes from behind grocery stores at night for shelves in his 25x25 ft. storefront. In the evenings in his living room, Kirsner counted each fastener in each box in hopes of finding a few extras.

As he attempted to make contacts with manufacturers, Kirsner found few willing to sell in small quantities, ex­cept for three firms - one of those be­cause the owner had dated Kirsner's mother in high school.

His first sale was to a customer from Reliable. He had to get his father to co-sign a bank loan to pay the C.O.D. charge for the $3,000 order.

"The best part of this story is that my customer paid me in 12 days and I marched into the bank and paid them off," Kirsner recalled. "Two months later the bank came to my little store and wanted to loan me money. I never borrowed any money again for Pell Mell Supply."

• Kirsner once sold four kegs of 1"nuts to a customer who required domes­tic product. "He called me and said that each carton contained metal tags that read, "Made in Japan." Kirsner's sup­plier didn't have an explanation and they lost Pell Mell as a customer.

Another manufacturer lost Pell Mell because it sought to sell direct to Kirsner's customers.

• Kirsner also rejected customers. "If I didn't like a customer who was buying direct from a manufacturer and who would call me for a small quantity of fasteners, I would tell them to call the manufacturer," Kirsner explained. "Of course, I knew the manufacturer wouldn't be able to serve them."

"I didn't want to offend my good customers, but I tried to explain to them that I also had to earn a living and that I would work with them for a 3% to 5% profit," Kirsner reasoned. "This worked pretty well."

• When a customer needed 64 1-3/4" ESNA-type lock nuts in three days because the ship was sailing, Kirsner turned to his major supplier. “We must have infringed on someone’s patent, but we made the nuts and delivered them on time. Thank God there wasn't any certification then," Kirsner sighed.
• Kirsner's proudest moment in the fastener business was when his Nevada Bolt Mfg. was asked to make the fas­teners for the refurbishing of the Statue of Liberty. "The material was fermium 255, which I never knew existed," he said.

For information on the fastener heritage project, contact WAFD at P.O. Box 15754, Long Beach, CA 90815-0754. Tel: (310) 425-1721. Fax (310) 425-0199.

Schiele Elected to Head IFI

James E. Schiele, chairman of St, Louis Screw & Bolt Company, was elected chairman of the Industrial Fasteners Institute for 1995-1996 during the fastener manufacturer association's annual meeting February 26-March 1 at The Grand Floridian in Orlando, Florida.

Schiele succeeds 1994-95 chairman David Lepore of Robertson Whitehouse, Inc.
Max Dorflinger of iNylok Fastener Corporation was elected vice chairman.
New division leaders are:

Division 1 - Blind Rivets, Bolts & Inserts: Larry Ernst, Emhart Fastening Technologies, chairman; Richard Woycik, Cherry Commercial Fasteners, assistant sales manager. He was named president in 1965 and chairman in 1973.

Schiele was chairman of the IFI government affairs committee in 1982 and was vice chairman of the IFI board in 1994. He testified before the International Trade Com­mission and the Senate Commerce Committee in support of the Fastener Quality Act.

Revercomb started in sales for Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. and from 1962 to 1969 was the Mid-At­lantic salesman for RB&W. He founded RevCar Fas­teners in March 1969.
Revercomb was a National Fastener Distributor As­sociation board member from 1980 to 1982 and NFDA president in 1982.

Fuller is president and CEO of Hunter-Stevens Com­pany, Inc. of Franklin Park, Illinois. Hunter-Stevens manu­factures special precision fasteners and socket products.

Fuller joined Lamson & Sessions Company of Chi­cago, Illinois, as a sales trainee in 1949.

In 1973 Fuller founded the Joseph Fuller Company as an importer with facilities in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Cleveland. During the next 10 years, Fuller became chair­man and stockholder in seven distribution centers in the U.S. He sold the Fuller operation to Nissho Iwai America (now operating as N.I. Fastener Group and based in Bensenville, Illinois).

For information on the banquet, call (614) 895-1279.
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