Pearl — When David Sherer and his partner, Morris Luke, started Central Pipe Supply Inc. nearly 30 years ago, they had both worked as managers of a similar company, and had philosophical differences with the ownership. So, they struck out on their own to make a living for their families — never once anticipating that they would be so successful that the company would grow to be one of the top 100 private businesses in Mississippi.
Three generations of Sherer and Luke families are currently employed at Central Pipe Supply, which now has over 60 employees and sales of $25 million per year. Central Pipe Supply is a distributor of pipe, valves and fittings including bronze, cast iron, stainless steel, sanitary stainless steel, carbon steel, PVC, CPVC, grooved fire protection fittings and many other related products.
Sherer, who is president of the company, said when Central Pipe Supply was founded in 1975, they were fortunate to be able to attract high-quality employees.
“That is the key to our success, our employees,” Sherer said. “We are in the supply business. We don’t manufacture anything. We buy it in bulk and supply our products to cities, water associations and industrial and commercial customers in the state of Mississippi.
“I think I could use the analogy of cooking. Our success is because we’re all about customer service. That is what our business is built around. The key ingredient in the recipe for success is our employees. We have taken the stance of having large, deep and comprehensive inventories of the products we sell. With good employees, plus the right inventories and equipment, we are able to give outstanding customer service. That has been the cornerstone of our success, and the reason our company has grown to where it is today.”
Sherer said most of their customers are medium to small businesses. Currently thousands of customers in Mississippi buy from them on a regular basis. And now there are also customers in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. The company’s success in the Magnolia State has led them to expand to have stores in Memphis, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark., as well as a sales representative in Alabama.
“We have been fortunate to have good people and product lines, and very, very good support from our advisors,” Sherer said. “Our bankers, insurance people and CPAs are all from Mississippi-based companies. Mississippi has an enormous amount of talent that can help people grow their businesses. All our advisors are based here, and we have used the same group of people for many years. They are very talented and have been most helpful.”
Sherer and Luke have also used family talent to grow the company. Their children have been with the company for 20 years and are in line to become the next generation owners. The founder’s grandchildren are also working at the company, in line to continue family ownership into the third generation.
Sherer’s three children employed at Central Pipe are Jerri Sherer, Renee Sherer and Sheriee Townsend, whose son, Daniel Townsend, also works at the company. Luke’s son, Nyle Luke, and grandson, Aubrey Luke, round out the family portion of the workforce.
“We have in our company three generations of family members, and will be bringing them along to continue to run and grow the company for years to come,” Sherer said. “All six have spent their entire careers working for Central Pipe. Fortunately for us, they all have their own unique talents. You raise kids in the same way, but they end up being entirely different people with their own areas of interest and expertise. That has worked out very well for us.”
The types of products have changed with rapid advances in technology. For example, the company is selling a lot of radio or remote read meters.
“We sell an enormous amount of radio-read or remote-read water, gas and electric meters,” Sherer said. “That is a very fast- growing segment of our business. They can read the meters by riding down the street at 35 miles per hour without ever stopping. In Nashville, they are reading water, gas and electric meters by airplane. Two planes fly over the Nashville metro area and read their meters.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.