After 45 years, Greenville Office Supply slugs it out with the big boxes by forging community connections
In an industry with fierce competition from big-box retailers, Greenville Office Supply has been an Upstate institution for 45 years.
Founder Bill Chandler decided to open an office supply store in November 1968, renting space in what was known as the Wade Hampton Mall. Within a few years, the company outgrew that space and moved to a new location on Stone Avenue. Chandler eventually opened a second location on North Main Street that he called the GOS Budget Furniture Mart, selling new and used office furniture.
When Chandler was ready to retire, the Carpenter and Pazdan families formed a partnership and bought the company in 1989. Both families ran the business until 1992, when the Carpenters bought the Pazdans out and moved GOS to a location on Pleasantburg Drive.
Charles Scales joined Greenville Office Supply in 1989 as a sales manager. A lifelong friend of the Carpenter family, he had been working as a traveling sales rep for another company and wanted to “get off the road” with the birth of his second child. GOS was looking for someone to head up its sales department.
In 1991, Scales took over as president and CEO, and in 1999 became a partner and shareholder in the company. The other partners are now “silent partners” and have nothing to do with the day-to-day business, he said.
Under Scales’ leadership, the company has grown from $2 million to $20 million in sales. Scales attributed that growth to the long-term team at GOS, saying a majority of the 50 employees have been with the company from 15 to 40 years.
Another move in 2004 brought GOS to its current “and hopefully final location,” Scales said: an office and warehouse on Frontage Road in Greer with 54,000 square feet of space and plenty of room to grow.
Every business needs office supplies, Scales said. “It’s the food for business” and encompasses far more than paper, pencils and pens. Scales said he’s fulfilled a request from a customer for a forklift and once provided dog biscuits to a local bank to give to its furry customers. The company has expanded into printing, furniture, janitorial supplies and promotional products over the years – really “anything you can put your name on,” he says.
“Computers completely changed our industry,” Scales said. With online shopping, “loyalty, sadly, has left the building.” But while some customers will only price shop, Scales said GOS has built and values long-term relationships with many businesses. GOS is a business-to-business company, and it’s the relationships that continue to build the business, he said.
“Big-box stores also completely changed our industry,” Scales said. “We had to learn how to be competitive with them.”
GOS stocks roughly 3,000 items in its warehouse and is a member of a larger buying group to provide more than 40,000 items to its customers – allowing GOS to buy items wholesale at about the same price as the big-box retailers.
Scales said his local sales force that are truly “office product specialists” with breadth and knowledge sets GOS apart from Staples, Office Depot and Office Max. Employee training is a constant to keep current on latest products and technologies, he said.
The company also hosts monthly lunch-and-learn events for its customers, which Scales sees as yet another way to communicate and maintain personal relationships with customers.
GOS also believes in giving back to the community, working with local chambers of commerce, schools, and the United Way. “We also try to use local businesses as much as possible,” he said.
For the next 45 years, “who knows where we keep going?” said Scales. “We’re still filing and businesses will still need office supplies to operate their businesses.”
Scales’ three sons all work in the business, so there is a succession plan, but Scales has no thoughts of retirement.
“My retirement will be upon death,” he said.