WOOSTER – There is the main building, the OB (other building), the State Building and the Vending Building.
And in the next few years, there could be another, called “Probably NB, New Building,” said Friendly Wholesale’s new owner, Matt Plocki, with a laugh.
It’s only been a few weeks since Plocki, his associate, Austin Miller; and general manager Jeremy Menegay took over the business, so they didn’t have much time to come up with more formal names for the buildings, which total 72,000 square feet.
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The plans they have for the 72-year-old facilities supply company on Cushing Street near the city center are no laughing matter, no matter what the buildings are called.
“We keep and grow the employee base here in Wooster,” said Plocki, who has owned a similar business in Pittsburgh for about 20 years. “We have 22 full-time employees and hope to increase that number to around 30 over the next two years.”
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George Selders started Friendly Wholesale in 1950 as a general wholesale business in the main building, which was built in the 1890s and had a few businesses before Selders took it over, including a wooden toy factory, according to his daughter, Joann Davidson, who has been involved in the family business for much of her life.
Davidson said when her father expanded the business, he bought the State Building, which she said Ohio State used for storage, and the Vending Building, and built the other building. .
As Davidson began to take over the business with her husband, Mark, in the 1990s, as her father went into semi-retirement and after his death in the 2000s, she focused on disposable products for food service and janitorial supplies for other businesses, schools and churches that use these types of products on a regular basis.
The new ownership group will continue Davidson’s direction and possibly add new products.
“In Pittsburgh, we’re the largest supplier of coffee on the East Coast, and we’d like to bring those products here to central Ohio,” said Plocki, who plans to buy a condo or townhouse in the area so that he can split his time between Wooster and Pittsburgh. He also owns a restaurant equipment installation business in the Pittsburgh area.
There is also a showroom for walk-in customers in Friendly Wholesale’s main building, which accounts for about 10% of its business, Plocki said.
Plocki’s partner, Miller, started at Pitt Specialty Supply, Plocki’s facilities supply business in Pittsburgh, which has 34 employees, as an intern for about six months and moved into a full-time position there. is about five years old after graduating from Penn State University.
Menegay, who lives in Uniontown, met Plocki and Miller while covering five states working for a chemical manufacturer in Ohio. They convinced him to be part of their new business because they knew he knew the area well. Menegay said what convinced him was the couple’s vision for the business and the employees of Friendly Wholesale.
Friendly Wholesale employees are happy with the new owner
Yvonne Hendershot, an employee for around 30 years – most employees have been with Friendly Wholesale for decades – said she was happy with her new bosses.
“We didn’t know Friendly was going to sell, so it could have been really scary who we got with,” she said. “But we’re pretty happy with who we got.”
Her husband, Tim Hendershott, said he had noticed business had picked up since the change in ownership and was looking forward to Friendly Wholesale’s future.
While she’s also looking forward to change, Yvonne said she’s glad one thing isn’t changing.
“It was like family and it still is,” she added of her work at Friendly Wholesale.
Davidson, who continued the family atmosphere her father created, said she approached the Friendly Wholesale buying group and Pitt Specialty Supply, the United group, to sell the family business because of the time spent on running the business at her age (she is 69); the need for it to expand; and not have children to continue operating it.
United Group is the largest member-owned paper buying and foodservice group in the country with 400 member businesses that are all independently run and all in the facilities supply business, according to Plocki, who , according to Davidson, offered her a sales job that she said she’ll likely take after the summer to keep in touch with the business that has been such a big part of her life.
Davidson said she didn’t want to sell it to anyone. She wanted someone with the same vision for the company and the employees – not only someone who would keep her employees “loyal”, but would carry on the family work atmosphere.
“When you have employees for 20, 30 years, you definitely become like family,” she said. “I spoke to Matt’s employees and got the same impression.”
Plocki said it hasn’t been difficult to maintain the family atmosphere at Friendly Wholesale.
“What sold us here was the people,” he said. “There are just amazing people who really care about the business.”