Local office supply lands major contract

Family-owned company to supply public agencies, schools and more
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
A local family-owned office supply has captured a multi-million dollar sales contract. Walker’s Office Supplies on Grass Valley Highway is part of a nation-wide $500 million contract to supply public agencies, schools, counties, cities and nonprofits. “We have just over $4 million,” co-owner Jared Anderson said. “We just last week picked up a couple of new agencies that put us over the $4 million mark.” For Jared and his brother Matt Anderson, the contract is affirmation that the retooling they’ve done to the business was the right course of action. “We used to be retail,” Jared Anderson said. “About a year ago, we made a decision to focus on commercial business and on the five-to-100-employee businesses, serving them with outside sales account managers and delivery vans. A year into it, we’ve worked hard at getting contracts like these and it’s really paying off.” The Andersons’ great-grandfather started the business in 1959. “We’re in the same building we’ve been in since 1978,” Anderson said. “Outside it looks the same, but inside, it’s different.” They’ve transformed the display shelves and counters into offices and extra warehouse space to house the overflow from their main warehouse nearby. “We (also) have our furniture outlet store,” he said. “We have your everyday items in the store, but our primary focus is on commercial accounts.” There’s still a walk-up counter for customers in the store, but about 30 percent of customers place orders online. “The rest is either they call or fax or outside sales personnel will write the order,” Anderson said. The national contract is through U.S. Communities, a buying co-operative for public agencies. Walker’s got a foot in the door through its buying co-operative, Independent Stationers, which is actually the contract holder, Anderson explained. Through a process of being certified, Walker’s was awarded a territory that extends from Auburn to Sacramento. Nationwide, there are 250 office supply dealers servicing agencies through the contract. “It’s extremely unusual. It’s never happened before — not for the independent office supply channel,” Anderson said. “Together we represent some serious volume. That’s how we compete.” Through the contract, Walker’s is authorized to sell nearly 20,000 items to the public agencies that choose to buy from it. “It got to the point where these agencies saw the savings and price and the value an independent business could bring to their agency,” he said. Walker’s previously supplied some area schools and county offices. Now the Andersons are busy calling on the 50 agencies in their territory. “We’re getting ready to ramp up,” Anderson said. “We already have four large agencies that have given commitments for the first of the year and one that started ordering this month. My goal is to take it to all the local cities — Auburn, Roseville, Lincoln, Rocklin, as well as all the schools and other public agencies to let them know they can get those supplies the next day and keep those dollars local.” The Andersons are planning to hire two van drivers and expect to add one or two more during the next year. Then the following year, they’ll likely bring on a couple more account managers. At the same time, they’re continuing to build up commercial accounts with local companies. “Our customers look like us. They’re locally owned. They make their own decisions,” he said. Jared Anderson practically grew up in the business. “I fell in love with this place at a young age,” he said. “I took it over at 23. Now I’m 32. It’s not easy being a small business owner.” Matt Anderson is 35. Walker’s staff has also remained steady. “We have people who’ve been here more than 20 years and are working hard,” Jared Anderson said. “We’re still here.” Bruce Cosgrove, Auburn Chamber of Commerce CEO, said he’s really happy for Walker’s Office Supplies’ success. “They’ve been in this community for many years, first in Downtown Auburn and then on Highway 49,” he said. “They’ve been strong supporters of a lot of the programs in the community. Recently, they had reduced the size of their operation and were changing up their inventory and their business approach. Now to land this contract is a huge shot in the arm for Walkers, and it’s a nice positive development in our community.” Gloria Young can be reached at ----------------------------- Walker’s Office Supplies Where: 1127 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn Phone: (530) 823-8737 On the web: www.walkers