Office Peeps, Watertown, South Dakota

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While many businesses were struggling in 2021, Office Peeps, Watertown, South Dakota, was busy setting a company sales record. But the highest-scoring category wasn’t facility maintenance, as one might expect. “We did well in all categories,” reports president and co-owner Joel Vockrodt. “But 2021 was a phenomenal year for interiors—our sales were up 67.6 percent compared with 2020.”

These soaring sales were no accident. “About three years ago, we acquired Central Business Supply and a large percentage of its business was furniture,” says Vockrodt. “We also started focusing more on the interiors category, promoting it separately to better explain what we are capable of doing. Another factor is we have been growing our relationships in the postsecondary education market, and many of these projects had been planned for a while.” And finally: “Government agencies had money to spend and many businesses are stronger than ever due, in part, to government help. It also helped that we are in a rural area and the economy didn’t contract as much as in other regions.”

Vockrodt believes trends in furniture say a lot about the economy: “Furniture is all about confidence. It is not a necessity; it can be put off. In the recession of 2009, we hardly sold a chair. But we’ve just had an amazing furniture year and I don’t think it was unique to us. I heard it was a good year for other dealers.”

While furniture is booming, now accounting for 43 percent of Office Peeps sales, Vockrodt credits the janitorial and technology sectors for helping the company get through the worst of the pandemic.

“In 2020, facility maintenance exploded, but general office products and our copier service revenues were down because people weren’t at work as much,” he says. “The flipside is that we sold as many laptops and small printers as we could get.”

At 17 percent in 2021, technology currently represents the smallest slice of Office Peeps’ total sales, but Vockrodt envisages this expanding in the future: “An area we want to focus on and grow along with furniture is software sales. I think we are fairly unique in that we are selling subscription-based software like Office 365 and anti-virus software. It’s good for business and a good way to evolve. It’s an area I can see us growing.”

Vockrodt believes this type of product expansion has always been key to Office Peeps’ success. “One of our strengths is diversification; we’ve changed a lot over 60-plus years,” he explains. “When the company was started in 1959, it sold typewriters and calculators; calculators were the newest technology then. We evolved into different machines, office supplies, furniture and facility maintenance. Through COVID-19, some categories were down; other categories were strong. It was diversification that helped us through. So we look for areas where there are growth opportunities.”

He believes the company’s underlying ideology has helped fuel this diversified growth: “We never thought of ourselves as a machine company or an office supply company. We think of ourselves simply as a company that supports other organizations. Businesses change and we supply them with their changing needs. This mindset helps us be openminded and evolve.”

In addition to diversifying and keeping up with the times, Vockrodt offers this advice to other dealers: “Belong to ISG; take advantage of its resources. Our business model revolves around the group’s stocking programs, and its programs have been a huge help. We stay active in it. We’ve served on committees, my dad and I have served on the board. I have had the privilege to be chair. We embrace that organization and it has been a huge part of our success.”

And as for Office Peeps’ future? “In the 20 years I’ve been involved in the business, we’ve grown steadily, in part due to acquisitions,” Vockrodt says. “The next 10 years could include more acquisitions and focus on some organic growth opportunities.”


Year founded: 1959

Number of employees: 35

Key management:  Jessica Vockrodt, controller and co-owner; Lee Grace, operations manager; Katie Woodard, director of design; Rob Ireland, service manager

Main wholesaler: S.P. Richards