Looking for a computer part, wiring device, plumbing joint, low VOC paint, or pottery kiln? If you’re wiring, replumbing, or redecorating your house or business, you’ll find everything you need in Kingston. Artists can also find specialty supplies here, be it handmade paints–encaustic, oil, or oil stick—at R&F Handmade Paints or everything they need to set up a potter’s studio, from the wheel and electric kiln to ceramic supplies, at Bailey Pottery. Both companies, which are located next to each other on Ten Broeck Avenue, are nationally known.
Some of these nuts and bolts businesses have deep roots in the city’s history, harking back to the day when Kingston was a manufacturing center. Industrial supply company Fowler & Keith, located in a four-story building at 104 Smith Street, started out down in the Rondout in the early 1900s. Besides plumbing and power tools, the store, which is owned by real estate developer Steve Aaron, still stocks an array of historic hardware.
Ulster Electric Supply Co., located at 9-15 Cornell—it also has an Ulster Lighting showroom at 572 Broadway, plus a location in Poughkeepsie—also started out in the Rondout and has been in business over 50 years, according to president and owner Barry Gruberg. Gruberg’s grandfather was the first licensed electrician in Kingston, and the supply company was started by his son—Gruberg’s father–in the back of a pick up.
Ulster Electric wholesales anything you can think related of to lighting—pipe, wire, wiring devices, commercial lighting. “We have 25,000 electrical supply products,” said Gruberg. The company sells to municipalities, hospitals, schools and other large entities in the commercial market. It delivers up to a radius of 70 miles and also has customers in Manhattan.
Gruberg said its retail store on Broadway has developed a niche in high-end lighting, offering a free layout service. “We can send our lighting retail specialist to your home, do the layout for free, and collaborate with the builder or architect,” said Gruberg. He said the company has had to lay off workers due to the economic downturn. “We’re surviving. We’re profitable, and are hanging in there, hoping for some upturn,” he said.
Herzog’s True Value Home Center, located at Kingston Plaza, is a fourth generation company owned by brothers Bradley and Todd Jordan. It has 100 local employees, with annual sales more than $20 million. The store has successfully competed against the big box stores by expanding: it became affiliated with True Value Company, a member owned co-op that gives it more buying power, in 1995 and added a state-of-the-art Kitchen and Bath Design Center, with free design consultations, in 2006. It acquired a paint supply company in Albany and has locations in Poughkeepsie and Wappinger’s.
Besides hardware, paint, lumber, plumbing and other supplies, Herzog’s has a garden center as well as a service center for power equipment. Its green products are particularly popular, according to Julie Jordan, marketing and advertising director. “Especially with the government rebates, there’s a lot of demand for green products in all departments,” she said. Herzog’s sells organic soils, fertilizers, and composters; Benjamin Moore eco-paints, which have low or no VOCs; energy efficient windows, doors, lighting, and insulation; and energy efficient a/c, heaters, humidifiers, and fans.
Herzog’s celebrated its centenary last year. Founder Matthew Herzog opened the first store on Wall Street, and his son Robert greatly expanded the company, developing a flourishing wholesale business in the 1940s. Robert developed the Kingston Plaza shopping center in the early 1960s, with Herzog’s relocating to the plaza in a new building in 1971.
P & T Surplus, located at 190 Abeel Street, started out in 1968, buying mainframe computers from IBM, each one delivered in fire tractor trailer loads, according to Tim Smythe, who has owned the business with his father since 1997. The company still breaks down machines, selling high-tech parts online to the semiconductor industry in Europe and Asia, as well as in the U.S., which Smythe said is about a quarter of its business.
At the other end of the spectrum, it sells surplus hardware and exotic metals, such as copper, brass, aluminum and stainless steel, locally, numbering among its clients many artists, including Judy Pfaff, whose large-scale assemblages gained her international fame. The art departments at Bard and SUNY-New Paltz regularly visit P & T with their students, said Smythe. For seven years straight, the company hosted an annual art show consisting of works crafted from its supplies, and Smythe said the store is planning another show this fall.
P& T is the place for that “hard to find metal angle or widget part, which is not standard,” said Smythe. The store also sells new items, including hardware, gloves, rope, hand tools, and tarps. It has three employees and a truck on hand to pick up business surplus, which has become harder to find: “It’s become more competitive,” said Smythe. “Scrap metal has caught on a lot, and now businesses sell their excess inventory on line.”