Fairmont Supply has tools for success

Rick Shrum
Observer Reporter

Possessor of an airline ticket to Arizona, Paul Fichiera was on the verge of apologizing as he addressed a crowd of winter-weary Western Pennsylvanians.

“I’m heading back to Phoenix, where it’s 75 degrees. That’s a lot different from what you’ve been experiencing,” he said Friday morning.

Fichiera smiled after establishing the tone with a lighthearted opening, then the president and chief executive officer of Fairmont Supply Co. supplied a comprehensive overview of his Washington-based company. And it was an impressive overview of a firm that is 98 years young and blossoming.

“We have a lot of work ahead, and we’re just getting started on what we want to do,” said Fichiera, featured speaker of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Breakfast Briefing, which attracted a large audience Friday to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in North Strabane Township.

Fairmont Supply, he explained, is a full-line industrial distributor that sells “well over a million product skews. Actually, we sell an infinite number of product skews. One day, I was looking at the shelves and saw we have everything from mining bits to hot chocolate.”

He refers to Fairmont as “a sales, marketing and service sales business.” It is regarded as a top 50 industrial and tools distributor.

“We can compete with Grainger and Fastenal, and we can tell customers that.”

Fichiera (pronounced ‘fi-shera’) has been with Fairmont Supply for a mere year and a half, but learned early on that this is a good-sized firm with more than 400 employees in 27 locations. A workforce of 80-plus operates at corporate headquarters off Jefferson Avenue.

The president/CEO is based in Phoenix, where he resides with his family, but travels frequently to Washington and other corporate sites.

Fairmont, he said, continues to grow. “We’re expecting $225 million in revenue this year. The company has essentially doubled its business over the past 18 months.”

He attributes much of that growth to three elements: diversity, acquisitions and employee loyalty.

Fairmont Supply has evolved quite a bit since it was formed in 1921 by Consolidation Coal Co., which later morphed into Consol Energy. Fairmont Supply, which started out in Fairmont, W.Va., served as a subsidiary to supply the coal industry until January 2015, when Consol sold it to Tenex.

In recent years, Fairmont Supply has made three pivotal acquisitions, the most recent being Amerisourse Industrial Supply in December. That deal, Fichiera pointed out, gave his company a presence in five large markets: Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, Memphis and Toledo.

He also praised Fairmont employees for their devotion, saying the average tenure of its workers is nine years. That average, Fichiera added, is nearly 50 percent greater at the Washington location: 13 years. This is why he is motivated to put employees “at the top” of the company’s operating model.

“If we do a good job of treating employees well, there’s a good chance they will be excited to do the work, and we will have a great opportunity to be here in 2119.”