Sandy’s Office Supply, Aspen, Colorado

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It’s not exactly off the beaten path, but Sandy’s Office Supply in Aspen, Colorado is located in a region that’s certainly known more for play than work. That, say owners Mike and Barbara Husaluk, comes with both positives and negatives.

The business has shown strong growth this year with a couple of furniture projects providing a good volume. Janitorial is another strong category for the dealership and also accounts for a good part of the recent growth.

Sandy’s has taken on the Buckeye chemical line, which it buys direct. In part that has contributed to its success with sales of cleaning and sanitation products. The chemical line provides the foundation that enables the dealership to move into other relationships with major Jan/San providers. “We just brought on a school where we converted all their chemicals, hand cleaners and sanitizers,” says Mike. “Now we are working on their paper products.”

The biggest issues for Sandy’s are concerns that most other dealers are free from. The dealership is based in Aspen and operates in three counties in west-central Colorado. Its primary market area takes in the resort areas of Vail and Aspen, along with the oil and gas market in nearby Garfield County. Their distribution center is located between the two markets in Glenwood Springs.

The main offices and a retail location are located in Aspen which, understandably is associated with peak real estate costs. “Dealers around the country roll their eyes when they hear the cost of space here,” says Mike. The Husaluks were able to purchase the Aspen space and reduce their rental costs, which has helped them maintain a retail location. They also own their warehouse in Glenwood Springs.

Finding and keeping employees in a resort town also presents a challenge. “We have to be flexible on scheduling,” says Mike. “You never know when an employee might want a day off.” One driver, a single dad, has stayed with Sandy’s for years because of flexible scheduling that allows him to drop off and pick up his children from school.

In addition to janitorial, furniture is also a growth driver and accounts for roughly one-third of sales. Sandy’s has represented Teknion for the past decade and that association has created opportunities. “It allows us to play in the major leagues,” says Mike. A degreed designer was added to the staff and that has also helped. “She gives us the design capabilities that larger contract dealers have,” Mike explains.

Those larger dealers, principally from Denver, have gone after contract furniture business aggressively in the area Sandy’s serves but haven’t been completely successful. “What they don’t have up here is a constant presence,” Mike says. Being located four hours away makes it hard to provide ongoing attention. One local government office had given one of these dealers a test project but was unhappy with the results. “They didn’t get the service they were used to and they came back and said they would give us the other projects,” he adds.

Wholesalers need to cover that same distance, and Sandy’s relies on overnight deliveries for its orders and resupply needs. At the same time Mike has looked at logistics along with his growing Jan/San business and has come to recognize that Sandy’s will start to buy more items direct and increase its inventory.

Increased inventory is being driven by pricing; buying direct produces better margins but also means that more product needs to be held so he watches turns carefully. Service is also a consideration, especially when any emergency resupplies can be four hours away. If a customer has an immediate need for a specific file folder, it might be easy to delay that purchase for a day or two; if a customer runs out of toilet paper that’s one purchase that usually can’t be deferred. “At the same time, because we stock it, we get the added advantage of a better price point,” Mike says.

Key management:
Barbara Husaluk, president; Mike Husaluk, vice president; Justin Barrow, general manager

Products carried:
You want it—we have it!!

Year founded:1973

No. of employees:12

Sales volume: $3M +

Key business partners:
SP Richards, Teknion, Tork, Buckeye, Keurig, Ricoh, Hewlett-Packard, Sellers