GROCO cel­e­brates cen­tury mark

Record Observer - - News - By KRIS­TIAN JAIME Kjaime@ches­pub.com

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.

PHOTO BY DON GROSS

The staff of GROCO cel­e­brates 100 years of do­ing busi­ness with clients across the world and here on the East­ern Shore.

PHOTO BY KRIS­TIAN JAIME

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.

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