It’s been quite a few years since Declan Hubbell took over Hubbell Mechanical Supply Co. from his dad, Jack. But he still remembers when he made the decision to go to work for the company at the young age of 12.
“A lot of people don’t believe that,” he says, regarding his age when he told his dad he wanted to go to work.
Dad said yes, and Hubbell began working in the warehouse of the Springfield business, which started in 1970. Hubbell says his early jobs were loading pallets and cleaning bathrooms.
“After that summer, I always told everybody that was the worst mistake I ever made,” he says, laughing.
Hubbell says his father “semiretired” around 2003, leading the youngster to essentially take over at 25 years old.
“He put a lot of work into getting it going,” Hubbell says of his dad, who died in 2013. “I had the easy part, I promise.”
The company started by Jack Hubbell was originally located on East Cherry Street before moving in 1973 to its current home at 2051 E. McDaniel St., where it has remained on a 5-acre tract of land.
To accommodate growth, Hubbell says numerous expansions have taken place on the property, with a total of seven buildings now. Among warehouse space, a showroom and offices, Hubbell says total square footage on the property is around 50,000.
Nearly 70 percent of the company’s business is generated through supplying clients with pipes, valves and fittings, Hubbell says, with the remainder in heating and air conditioner supplies. He says the company’s expanded the heating and air portion of the business in recent years.
With positive word of mouth a big factor in the company’s longevity, Hubbell says the clientele has been built over time through the hard work of salespeople in the field.
“It’s a pretty niche business,” he says. “I couldn’t put a billboard up and have it do any good. We don’t sell to the user.”
One of those clients is Gary Cooley of Cooley’s Plumbing and Backhoe Inc. Cooley says he’s worked with Hubbell Mechanical Supply since 1976 and has known Declan since “he was just a little bitty boy.”
Cooley says his company gets just about everything Hubbell offers in plumbing supplies, spending around $15,000 a month. The companies used to do more business together when Hubbell Mechanical sold fixtures, such as stools. But because Cooley’s Plumbing does a lot of residential work, he now purchases those items elsewhere.
Hubbell Mechanical makes free deliveries within a 100-mile radius, and the company has shipped product overseas, Hubbell says.
Hubbell says the business climate right now looks to be about “building, building, building.”
“That’s always good for our industry,” he adds, noting revenue already was trending up, reaching $4 million last year.
“Over the short term, everything looks great,” he says. “In the next several years, I don’t foresee anything terribly different.”
Prior to the economic downturn around 2008, everyone thought it was going to be economic smooth sailing for the foreseeable future, Hubbell says.
While that period was a definite challenge, he says being a debt-free company helped the business survive.
“We don’t have any debt,” Hubbell says. “As tight as it was, we were able to weather that storm, obviously. A lot of people folded up. We were able to make it through and that was probably a big reason why.”
The staff at Hubbell Mechanical Supply Co. is relatively small, Hubbell says, with 15 currently employed.
“Everybody’s just extremely efficient. And dad passed this down to me, but it’s just everybody is well trained at sourcing, which is the key to having a place as small as we are competing with all the big jobs around.
“It might sound cliche, and everybody says it, but having that tight-knit atmosphere always helps,” he continued. “Nobody’s a cog in the wheel over here.”
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