Washington Supply Co. celebrates 125 years in business
Updated 9:40 pm, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
WASHINGTON — Two weeks after President Grover Cleveland was sworn into office for his second term, the Washington Supply Co. opened its doors on Calhoun Street to sell goods to local builders and farmers.
The business was established in 1893 by five local farming families that formed a partnership, each holding one $500 share. On March 20, it will celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Tax returns from 1917, when the business was already well established, show it was a popular place to go. Sales that year hit $120,654 — well over $2 million in today’s dollars. And the store is still a success, regularly topping $7 million in annual sales.
“We’re just one of those places that people turn to when they don’t know where to go,” said co-owner Valerie Sedelnick.
Sedelnick is one of five former employees who bought the business in 2006. Two have since retired, leaving Sedelnick, Jay Combs and Jim Bate to carry on the legacy.
125 years in Washington
1893: Local farming families formed a partnership on March 20 to open the Washington Feed and Supply Co. with five $500 shares.
1947: The Shepaug Railroad, which ran right next to the store, stops service. Delivery of freight by railroad is replaced by trucking.
1955: The Great Flood caused $55,000 worth of damage to the store and its merchandise. Residents pitched in to help clean, and the store was open for business the day after the flood.
1973: Coal silos were torn down.
1986: The store became computerized, making billing and inventory control more efficient.
2006: Owner Henry Paparazzo transferred ownership of the company to a group of current employees.
2012: Two of the five co-owners retire leaving three owners — Valerie Sedelnick, Jay Combs and Jim Bate.
The Washington Supply Company
Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Visit https://washingtonsupply.com or call 860-868-7395
In 2012, the group expanded the business, adding 900 square feet of retail space and five storage facilities. They also purchased a Moffett Truck to deliver “to even the toughest job sites,” according to its website.
Over the decades, the store has sold everything from coal to local railworkers to gas for drivers of early mass-market automobiles. All the while, it stuck to its core business of supplying area homebuilders and homeowners hardware and home goods.
“We change with the times,” Sedelnick said.
The business has survived world wars, economic booms and busts and even the Great Flood of 1955.
The flood killed nearly 100 people in Connecticut. And in Washington, the Shepaug River overran its banks, wiping out businesses and homes in the depot. Although flooding decimated its neighbors, the Supply Company was re-opened the next day thanks to residents who helped clean up.
A year later, the business donated several one-acre lots in Washington to residents who lost homes or businesses.
The key to sticking around, Sedelnick said, is customer service and unmatched employee trade experience. The store’s staff boasts 555 years of combined experience in selling hardware, she said.
And it still attracts a loyal customer base, even after the proliferation of big-box stores, like Home Depot, Sedelnick said. The company’s 100th anniversery was marked with a town-wide, two-day celebration.
Some current employees were around when the store was more of a general store, selling everything from big appliances to clothing.
But some things haven’t changed with the times: The store still allows customers to purchase on store credit and still sends out some 1,200 statements a month.
“We pride ourselves on customer service,” Sedelnick said. “And we have a lot of community support.”
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