Sandor Epstein was a toolman from the beginning. He started out as an independent mobile tool distributor under the flag Tools on Wheels in 1980. He soon became frustrated when the demand for tools and equipment outpaced the time it took to do business—he literally couldn‘t see enough customers in a week to fulfill demand in his territory. Epstein thought to himself, “I have to change my direction.”
He ran Tools on Wheels for three years until he came up with a way to fulfill all of his customers' needs from one location (now two). His dream was to provide both two-step and three-step distribution, not only to his current customers, but to a wider audience as well. He accomplished this while still extending the personal interaction and customer service he had as a mobile tool dealer.
It’s About The Appeal
Now the business, Eppy’s Tool & Equipment Warehouse, provides customers with four options to access their inventory and interact with the company:
- At two locations, one in Brooklyn, NY, where the headquarters are located, which is a full-service warehouse and store, and Howell, NJ, which is a full-service store.
- Their website, www.eppys.com.
- The Mechanic's Tool Club, Eppys' VIP buying service, which fulfills both two and three-step distribution via their website and other promotional items.
- Through a catalog.
Epstein says his business is a work in progress: "We have a loyal customer base, and it’s continuously growing.” With the various channels Eppy's offers their customers, they've opened themselves up to more prospective buyers than Epstein could've ever serviced with one truck. While www.eppys.com was launched in 2001, Epstein says, "We've had the domain name since the Internet just started to evolve." Lauren Nicole, marketing manager, adds, “We started out with just an informational site. Now it’s more like a click n’ mortar website.”
On the store side, a multitude of various brands, sizes and categories of tools and equipment are stacked and organized in glass displays or neat rows on shelves. “It’s like coming to Baskin-Robbins, but with tools behind the glass,” Epstein mentions. “Guys like to come in and see, feel and touch the tools. It’s much different than browsing through a catalog although the convenience of a catalog and website does come in handy when customers are spread out across the nation."
It’s About The Organization
With more than 20,000 SKUs (and an availability of 100,000 within a two to three-day window), Eppy's employees must be able to easily and quickly locate a tool to get it to their customers. Eppy’s has integrated custom-written software into their tracking system. “We’re constantly upgrading. In fact, we got a new system in August to streamline both locations into one. If I can’t get it, you probably don’t need it. There’s very few tools we can’t source.”
Along with an advanced software program, Eppy's employees also group like types of tools and equipment together so their customers can easily navigate around the store, not to mention compare features and price factors. Furthermore, they stock seasonal products in the back of the store, such as A/C products during the summer months, furthest from the entrance in order to generate interest in other products as customers walk through the aisles. Lauren says, "It's like a candy store for tool lovers."
Eppy's employs 16 people, three in Howell, NJ, and 13 in Brooklyn, with a couple employees who work at both locations. While both locations serve Mechanic's Tool Club members and other types of customers, the Brooklyn location also handles the administrative, logistical and marketing functions of the business.
In Brooklyn, the building is sectioned off by department—marketing, warehouse, executive, shipping/receiving, showroom/store, tool repair center, warranty center, and the technology center that holds a website work area and catalog production area. Eppy’s keeps everything in house to drive overhead down so they have the ability to pass those savings on to their customers. All of these areas are accessible to customers, too, so they can peruse the displays and even walk behind counters feeling at ease.
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