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 Subject : Personal History, by Bob Lehman, Pacific Warehouse Sales.. 10/27/2011 04:14:39 PM 


I started in the fastener industry 40 years ago at the old age of 27 years old. I had spent my younger years working in a lumber company in St. Louis, Missouri after being born on a dairy farm in northern Illinois. I spent 4 years in the US Navy during the Korean War, then working for Chrysler Corporation in Detroit.

I started in the fastener industry in 1955 at All Stainless Incorporated, Boston, Massachusetts. I worked at All Stainless for 5 years, doing every job from warehouse, inside sales, and purchasing, until I became Assistant General Manager. During this same time I received my college education from Northeastern University in Boston. In 1959, I graduated with my BA when I was 31 years old.

All Stainless only sold stainless products and mostly in the New England area. I wanted to learn more, so I made the best decision of my life. I left in the fall of 1960 to go to work at Albany Products in South Norwalk, Connecticut. Albany Products was a national company selling all non-ferrous fasteners through manufacture representatives all over the USA and Canada.

At Albany Products, I received my "masters degree" in fasteners selling to distributors, while working with very talented people. This included Edith Cameron, who was elected to the Fastener Hall of Fame in 1993. Working for Edith, was a young woman named Joyce who became the love of my life.

In the fall of 1961, I was offered a chance to start a new company by some gentlemen investment partners, who did not want to run a company, but wanted a return on investment. They knew the stainless business and wanted to supply a new company, so I moved to New Jersey to start Bell Fasteners. Before doing so, I made the most important decision of my life, and proposed to Joyce. We were married in April of 1962.

The partners wanted to sell only stainless and monel fasteners, so that is what we did for the next 15 years. At that time, there were many companies selling stainless and non-ferrous fasteners and competition was tough, but it was a lot of fun. Many of those companies are now out of business, or merged with other companies. H.M. Harper, Anti-Corrosive, Albany Products, All Metal Screw Products, Schnitzer Alloy, Whitney Screw, Star Stainless, and a few others, all were selling non-ferrous fasteners to both distributors, and end users. The only companies of that group who are left in business today are Bell Fasteners and Star Stainless, the two largest non-ferrous suppliers in the USA and Canada. They both sell 97% of their product through distribution.

In those early days, we did everything by telephone and mail. Mail was cheap, and the telephone was expensive for calling long distance. We did not even have a calculator, but figured discounts, and mark ups by hand. To this day, I still use short division to get profit from cost. The greatest invention in my life time, though, is not the television, or the computer, it is the "FAX"". It gets answers to people 24 hours a day. I wish we had it back in the old days.

Bell Fasteners grew each year, particularly after we opened a branch in Chicago in 1969 and then in Los Angeles in 1971. All the distributors believed in us, because we only sold through distributors with no end user accounts. When an OEM would call us, we turned it over to a local distributor with their cost from us. This policy really helped build Bell during the 1970s.

I served as President General Manager of Bell Fasteners during those 15 years. The employees and I tried to buy Bell Fasteners in 1976, but the owners sold out to Pawtucket Manufacturing and Brewster Industries who still own Bell to this day.

The new owners wanted their own management to run Bell, so for the first time in my life, at 49 years old, I was out of a job. I did some selling for W. H. Haskell Company, a manufacturer of fasteners. When we sold our home and the three kids were out of school for the summer, we packed up and moved to California in the summer of 1977.

The first few years in California, I worked for a distributor, and did some selling of fasteners for Albany Products. In 1981 I started Modern Metric Fasteners in Glendale, California. Sharon Reed, who had extensive metric knowledge, operated the inside sales for me. Debbie, our oldest daughter, had started college that year at UCLA, and worked for Sharon after school. At the same time we formed Pacific Warehouse Sales in the same building as Modern Metric. We had only two lines at that time, Gesipa rivets and spring pins. We sold mostly by the phone and I made the sales calls by myself. In 1982 Joyce joined me at P.W.S. We started to build the company with more lines that included Safety Socket Screw, Western Wire, and Coupling Nut Supply. Debbie left college in 1983 to work full time for Modern Metric with Sharon.

In the spring of 1982, I helped start WAFD. I had been one of the charter members of the Metropolitan Fastener Association in New York City, so I was very familiar with trade associations. I served two terms on the board of the Metropolitan Fastener Association and had been very active in the National Fastener Distributor Association "NFDA" since 1971. I am now an honorary member of the NFDA, and attend most of their meetings.

We sold Modern Metric in 1984, because of the arrival of Bossard in our building. Debbie went to work for Bossard at that time, and I wore two hats, working for Bossard as Western Manager and still spending time with Pacific Warehouse Sales with Joyce.

I left Bossard in 1985 when they would not let P.W.S. become their representatives. We moved into a larger warehouse with Majestic Screw Bolt. I again wore two hats as Manager of Majestic and helping Joyce with P.W.S. When Bossard would not promote Debbie in 1986, she joined P.W.S. as General Manager and her mother semi retired to take care of Tracy and Kelly. At this time, P.W.S. started to grow, so we moved into our own building and left the problems of Majestic to others. Debbie ran the office and warehouse at P.W.S. and I did the selling. In 1990 we obtained the Nucor line and this really helped us along. The same year, Kelly joined the company to help Debbie in the office and warehouse.

In 1991, I found out I had cancer, so I turned the company over to the girls. Now I spend all my time in the outside sales. I n 1994, Tracy joined the company. All three daughters and Joyce own the company now. We moved into a bigger building in 1993, which the girls now own also.

In early 1994, Joyce and I moved to Phoenix, Arizona. In May of 1994, I was elected to the Fastener Hall of Fame in Columbus, Ohio. The family and I attended the event, which was a great honor for all of us. I can thank Nucor for nominating me for this award. I also want to thank the Porteous, Cordova and Calfee families for all the help they have given the girls and I these last 5 years.

Pacific Warehouse Sales now has four inside sales people, four persons in the warehouse, and four outside salesmen.

I still love this business. I love to make sales calls, and I hope I can continue to do this for the rest of my life. This industry has been very good to the Lehman family. All my best friends are in the fastener industry.

P.S. Bobby, you asked for a "Point of View". The only one I have is that all the suppliers in the fastener industry should sell through distributors. This has been our success, as it has been for Porteous and a few others.

- Bob Lehman
Pacific Warehouse Sales
Santa Fe Springs, CA
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