GROCO celebrates century mark
Reaching 100 years of business is nothing short of a milestone, but in the case of GROCO, 450 Marion Quimby Drive, in Stevensville, it was a legacy rooted in service.
The company that started in earnest in 1918, in the basement of a Baltimore row house, was far from a dynamic firm with worldwide clients. Back then, it was little more than a pair of workers trained personally by founder Angus Roy Gross Sr. when the industrial boom saw expanding steel, automotive and marine industries.
Now with 50 employees, Donald Gross, owner and president of GROCO, oversees the production and sale of seacocks, raw water strainers, pumps, water pressure systems, thru-hull fittings, toilets and sanitation systems, oil coolers and heat exchangers.
“It’s humbling to talk about anything for 100 years,” Gross said. “It’s pride in our heritage from my grandfather to my father. We’ve had employees that had no skills that my grandfather taught machinery or mechanical duties who lasted through three generations of the family business.”
During a time where high employee turnover in various market sectors is the norm, GROCO bucks the trend by opting to stay small and approachable. Gross proudly points out employees in the company’s history who retired after 56 years of service and a number of others with more than 40 years of employment.
The third-generation manufacturer has thrived through innovation. The ever-growing patents credited to GROCO include a carbonating faucet in 1913, a blow torch in 1918, automobile tail lights in 1921, engine oil coolers in 1930 and dual water strainers in 1942 that were key contributors to success of the World War II effort, an ice shaving machine in 1951, a reversible valve handle in 2006 and wirelessly controlled valves currently patent-pending this year.
“[ Our] approach to customer service is not by the book. I firmly believe that when people call, they want to talk to a person and not an automated phone tree,” Gross said. “People make [ business] happen, and that’s the building block of customer service to me. The hard part is not the idea, but the marketing aspects to get the sales force behind it.”
Gross credits that community outreach for the success the company has experienced in recent years. The common understanding of most commercial success is based on growth in both services and human capital. Yet leave it to GROCO to make its own path, yet again, and stay nimble. Citing the importance of maintaining the close-knit community of employees, Gross refers to all employees on a first-name basis.
Looking to the next generation of leadership in the company starts with looking at the family itself. With Gross’ daughters recently graduated from college, he hints at the possibility of a successor, but will let time tell. He credits the current executive staff as more than capable of continuing unprecedented momentum.
The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners officially recognized GROCO’s achievement with a proclamation at the June 12 meeting.
“We hereby recognize GROCO for their giant milestone of 100 years of business and their success,” read Commissioner Jack Wilson from the meritorious citation. “You don’t get to read many of those [in these meetings]. That longevity is just phenomenal.”
Gross posits the creative prowess of his family as the cornerstone of its entrepreneurial spirit but work ethic as the basis for its continued financial heights. Like any business founded on family, GROCO is well aware if its roots.
“The community provides the people that make the wheels turn. They’ve been supportive of us both in downtown Baltimore and now in Stevensville. So they make it all happen,” Gross said.
The staff of GROCO celebrates 100 years of doing business with clients across the world and here on the Eastern Shore.
Donald Gross, owner and president of GROCO, addressed his employees during the centennial celebration of his family’s company and spoke about the long tradition of quality the business has cultivated.