Take the L train to Morgan Street station in Brooklyn, walk down the hill a few minutes. Turn right past the “Help Wanted” sign soliciting drivers and warehouse workers, and you’ll find the 2010 Pro Dealer of the Year—MarJam Supply Co.
After multiple visits to the Brooklyn yard and headquarters of MarJam Supply, Home Channel News is prepared to describe it as one of the busiest yards in the country.
“It’s like this 24/7,” said Mark Buller, founder and CEO, as forklifts whizzed by, trucks came and went, and hard hats scurried around the yard on the banks of the Newtown Creek. “Come here at 3 in the morning and you’ll see this, too.”
For instance: MarJam’s staff includes a full-timer dedicated exclusively to traffic-ticket mitigation.
The company’s high-volume Brooklyn yard is not for the faint of heart, and it’s rewarded with business at some high-profile job sites—including the Bloomberg Building and the World Trade Center.
“The company was founded in Brooklyn,” Buller said. “We wake up in the morning expecting traffic and expecting everything to be antagonistic. Yes, it is quite challenging, and we love it because we’re used to it. We excel at it, and we have the right attitude.”
Buller founded the company with his brother James in 1979. It has since grown to 22 locations—not counting door shops and storage areas—and a 16th-place rank on the Home Channel News Pro Dealer Industry Scoreboard.
Many of the urban-related headaches fall into the inbox and voice-mail system of Carmen Arguelles, the chief operating officer who described her career path as a “zig instead of a zag,” mixed with a desire to live and work in Brooklyn.
“Between the congestion, the rules, the unions, the traffic tickets, we have a barrier to entry,” Arguelles said. “If you don’t know it, if you’re not born here, it’s not advisable to walk into that water.”
MarJam Supply Co.
2010 Pro Dealer of the YearSlogan: “We deliver.”Headquarters: Brooklyn, N.Y.Locations: 22HCN Industry Scoreboard ranking: No. 162009 sales growth: 7%Founded: 1979Color commentary: “We hope to emerge from this business climate ahead of the class, but we’re humble about it.”—Mark Buller
While “Busiest Yard” is an unofficial title, MarJam Supply is officially the 2010 Pro Dealer of the Year—a title it accepted at the recent ProDealer Industry Summit in Orlando, Fla., cosponsored by the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association and Home Channel News.
No bigger company had better sales growth on the 2010 Pro Dealer Industry Scoreboard. No. 16 on the list, the company had a 7% sales gain in a difficult year.
The company long ago expanded out of Brooklyn and carries the slogan: “We Deliver from Maine to Virginia.” That slogan will need an update, as the company recently acquired four locations in Florida, bringing its footprint to 22 sites.
While Florida presents a new, fresh environment with plenty of space, the team knows it presents challenges, just the same.
“Operation-ally, Florida is terrific,” Buller said. “It’s almost like starting with a blank piece of paper. The door openings are right, the setbacks are correct, the streets are wide—except the customer base is shrinking a little too fast for my appetite.”
The company describes itself as in “learning mode” in Florida. One major factor in their favor is the quality of the people they have in place to develop the market.
The company is no stranger to awards. In 1995, Buller was recognized as Metropolitan New York winner of an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. More recently, the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association honored Arguelles as a “Lumber Person of the Year.”
And in Buller’s vision of the future, and future investments, the company is looking to continue the strong performance over the long term.
“We’re not like a private-equity company that walks in and knocks 25% out of costs and pops a profit next quarter,” he said. “Of course, we want to pop a profit, and we have pretty good profits in a bad economy. But we’re thinking long term.”
And as busy as the yard is on the outside, the sales office—“This is our stock exchange,” Arguelles said—is equally busy.
“We are profoundly inside-sales bent,” said Buller, motioning toward the phone bank. “We have excellent outside salespeople—I think they’re the best in the industry—but we are tilted very heavily toward the inside. They handle the relationship; they do the expediting.”
“The biggest key to our success is neither of us golf,” Arguelles said. “So we have to sit here and work all day.”
In a tough environment, that’s a good problem to have.