Diligence pays off

IRONDALE – If you give your customers what they want, Chris Joseph figures there’s a pretty good chance that when all is said and done you’ll get what you want: More business.

“Giving customers what they want makes life a lot easier,” said Chris, son of the now semi-retired C.A. Joseph Co. founder Charles “Chuck” Joseph. He and his brothers, Mike and Matt, and sister, Marcie, represent the company’s second generation family ownership.

“It’s about being precise, being diligent about paperwork and taking extra steps to make sure everything is taken care of before the trucks pull out,” he said. “Most of our customers have been with us for years. It seems like once we get them, they don’t leave, which is a good thing.”

C.A. Joseph, founded in Columbiana County in 1975 to fabricate mausoleum parts, has grown to be one of, if not the, leading parts supplier to the mausoleum industry. Over the past 38

years the business has added a machine shop in Calcutta where workers do all their assembly work for the mausoleum side of the business.

They’ve also added a second location in Irondale equipped with a pair of burning tables, plus fabricating and welding. Three new buildings were added at the Irondale plant, including a 30,000-square-foot warehouse equipped with a pair of 25-ton overhead cranes.

All of that has allowed them to diversify operations to include warehousing, plate processing and industrial vacuum processing.

“When we first got into it, we had all our eggs in one basket,” he said. “I’ve always felt very strongly about diversifying the company, to where we do a bunch of different things and everything works together.”

The family is currently preparing to extend the rail lines, “that’s our big project now.”

“Rail is easier (than over the road), and it also opens the door for more customers, more opportunities,” he said. “We can go after business we couldn’t consider before because we didn’t have rail service.”

And while the investment is nothing to sneeze at, the potential is unlimited. Already, one of their biggest storage customers picked the Irondale plant for its U.S. central hub.

“It has to do with efficiency and how well we run our operation,” he said. “We’re a fine-oiled machine, as far as how our business operates, and we have really good people, they have a real (understanding) of our process. It’s a strict process, you have to program your mind to do it. We probably had a two-year learning curve.”

The rail extension should be done before the end of 2013. Once it’s out of the way, C.A. Joseph will be adding another 150 feet in warehouse space at the Irondale plant. Later this year they’ll also be launching at least one new process.

“There’s a lot of anticipation,” he said. “It’s a huge step for us; it’s going to be very interesting. We’re going to hit the ground running and see how smoothly we can make it all happen.”

He gives former Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman, now Eastern Ohio Project Manager for the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, a lot of credit for helping the company position itself for the growth, including helping them “find the right resources for us to expand and places to look for operations and people.”

“We’d been talking about rails for years, but the opportunity wasn’t there at that time,” he said. “We’ve been very conservative, because it was such a large investment, and sometimes being conservative isn’t a bad thing. But everything happens for a reason.”