Hulbert Supply has been located on Route 3 in Plattsburgh since Donald Hulbert built on property adjacent to his house in 1947. Originally Hulbert’s was a wholesale plumbing supply business selling only to contractors. Today anyone is welcome to shop with them. In its more than 70 years in business Hulbert’s has grown and evolved.
“My grandfather was a big picture person,” Allison Hulbert-Bruce, current showroom manager of the Plattsburgh store explained. “He computerized the business in the 1980s because he recognized the importance of adapting to changing technology.”
Today there are six Hulbert locations: Plattsburgh, Malone, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Burlington and Brandon, VT. In July 2018, the company was purchased by Howland Pump and Supply, a wholesale supplier based in Ogdensburg. Howland has a storied history, not unlike Hulbert’s. The company started as a small water pump manufacturer in Ogdensburg in 1855, moving into plumbing over time. The business really started to expand in the 1970s, when a second store came on line.
At the time of the purchase Howland Pump operated nine retail store locations: Ogdensburg, Watertown, Malone, Utica, Oneida, Rome, Potsdam, Gouverneur, and Massena. While all Hulbert and Howland stores have retained their names, the two Malone stores merged into one under the Hulbert name. The new Howland-Hulbert business now includes 14 stores, covers a geographic area that spans hundreds of miles and employs approximately 125 people.
Behind Hulbert’s Plattsburgh store is a warehouse full of boilers, hot water heaters, furnaces, air conditioning units, and parts to service most any plumbing need. Three box trucks run out the location to support the other stores.
BUSINESS BUILT ON CUSTOMER SERVICE
The current branch manager of Hulbert’s Plattsburgh store, Rob Molinari, has worked for Howland’s for 10 years. Asked about his new position he explained that hands down, his favorite part of the job is the people — the people he works with and the customers. He especially enjoys helping people. “When somebody comes to you, they’re coming because they need help with a project or they’ve broken something and they need your help to fix it. We have products they can use and we figure out what they need,” he said. “Times have changed and materials have evolved. Today we offer more than 500,000 line items.”
Other employees at Hulbert’s have a similar mindset. “Everybody here loves their job and truly cares about the customers,” Molinari continued. “Anyone who comes in, who’s been doing business here for years, is not buying the “H” that says Hulbert up there, they’re buying Allison or they’re buying the 30 years they’ve done business with Kevin, our inside heat guy,” he said, adding that while there are other similar businesses in Plattsburgh, “The people who come in here come by choice. That’s a testament to what everyone here has done over the years in building relationships.”
SO MANY CHOICES
Hulbert-Bruce joined the family business in 1998 after graduating from college. “I’m creative. I love houses and I love design,” she said. Hulbert’s moved to computerized design in 2004. The second-floor showroom of the Plattsburgh store has kitchen and bathroom arrangements, offering a myriad of choices of materials and designs, kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, sinks, faucets, hardware, fixtures, tubs, showers, shower walls, and shower doors. “We pride ourselves on being able to find exactly what you’re looking for by whittling down the choices based on the questions we ask you,” said Hulbert-Bruce.
CULTURE OF SUPPORT
Both Hulbert and Howland have a long-standing company culture that supports the communities in which they live and conduct business. The Plattsburgh staff includes a Rotarian, two volunteer firefighters, a United Way volunteer, and a youth sports coach. It is companies like these that are the backbone of the North Country.