Up and At ‘Em in Manhattan
Benfield prides itself on custom, 24-hr. service to NYC clients.
Every weekday before the sun comes up, delivery trucks rumble out of a series of large, red-brick warehouses making up Benfield Electric and Elevator Supply Corp. in Bronx, New York, carrying all manner of supplies needed to keep vertical-transportation systems running smoothly – traveling cable, wire rope and door edges, just to name a few. Drivers are on their way to New York City (NYC), which has always been the lifeblood of Benfield’s business.
Regardless of the economy, elevator repairs always have to be made in NYC, and, these days, there are plenty new projects taking shape that are also driving business. Dan McLaughlin, CEO of Benfield Electric Supply Corp., observes:
“Our trucks leave our shop every day at 5:30 a.m. heading downtown, similar to a wagon train. They return in the afternoon, and we do it all over again the next day. As famous New York Yankee Yogi Berra once said, ‘It’s like déjà vu all over again!’
Benfield is a wholesale distributor founded by Herb Benfield in 1951. It has had its elevator division for 18 years. With joint ventures in Australia and Houston and offices in Guam, Tokyo and the U.K., the parent company has approximately US$150 million in annual sales, more than US$8 million worth of inventory stored in three strategic locations (Bronx; Mahwah, New Jersey; and White Plains, New York) totaling approximately 90,000 sq. ft., a fleet of delivery trucks and 145 employees.
Benfield came about as a result of the acquisition of Central Elevator & Electrical Supply Co., Inc. in 1997. Central was founded by Bobby DeFrancesco (“Bobby Dee” to all who know him) in 1982, and DeFrancesco has been a friend and active proponent of the elevator industry ever since. He remains president of Benfield Electric & Elevator Supply, which has grown along with business. DeFrancesco originally employed three people. Since the acquisition, that has increased to 18 in the sales, warehouse, delivery and back-office departments.
Benfield originally carried limited cable and associated electrical products, but that has grown to scores of products that fulfill the needs of all its maintenance, repair and modernization clients. Benfield is the exclusive distributor of Prysmian/Draka cable in the NYC area, and that product remains its top seller. Benfield also carries Peelle freight doors, Electrodyn retrofit solutions, Smart Elevator Tech components, Gorman seals and Wurtec components, tools and products.
Benfield’s elevator division has a couple of competitors in the area, but McLaughlin believes its service and commitment to excellence makes it stand out:
“Benfield sets itself apart because we are privately owned, so we can make decisions daily to better serve our customers. We have substantial inventory in both elevator and electrical products. We consider ourselves a company where customers can get almost everything they need. Free delivery, no cutting charges and seven-day, 24-hour service are just a few of the local benefits we offer.”
There is no “typical” Benfield customer, he says, since the company regards all clients – from international corporations to independents, to small mom and pop operations – as vital to business. “We are proactive in our approach to satisfy all their needs,” McLaughlin observes.
Although there is no doubt Benfield has gotten many clients out of jams over the years, it is often unaware of what unfolds once products have been delivered, McLaughlin states, elaborating:
“Our guys usually call from the jobsite, and the customer comes down and picks his materials up. Then, they go on their merry way. We also have people come to the counter [at three locations] to pick up their items after calling us and bill them later, what we call a “quick pick.” As an added bonus, there is free parking, which is almost like gold in New York.” Benfield intends to continue setting itself apart by offering customers what they need, when they need it, with friendly professionalism. Toward that goal, management implemented a mentoring program approximately four years ago in which company veterans teach newcomers “old school” business practices and networking skills combined with modern technology. McLaughlin opines: “We are laying the groundwork for the future and building ourselves up for the next generation.”