A&S Electric Small, Smart
Core Value: One-on-One Service

Tom Smith confesses his company’s web site could probably use a little work. “It’s more of a hobby than part of the job,” he chuckles.

Sure, slick web sites are nice. But there are successful businesses, like A&S Electric Supply of Erlanger, whose business model has worked just fine for 40 years based on one-on-one service, promptly getting customers the right parts for the job at hand. Sort of the original meaning of “interactive.”

“We are a face-to-face, over-the-phone company. We aren’t a global-economy type of business,” says Smith. “I would rather do a good job for a core of people in this region than trying to overcome the world with volume. That’s not our business philosophy.”

NKY’s Go-To Distributor

Smith is the second-generation owner of A&S Electric Supply, the company his father Larry Smith, co-founded in 1969.

It remains Northern Kentucky’s go-to distributor of electrical components, lighting fixtures, accessories and electrical construction parts from all major manufacturers.

The company opened a residential lighting center and showroom in 1978 at its Crescent Avenue location, which is open to the general public.

“We do sell to everyone, although 90 percent of our business is wholesale to contractors, industry and institutions,” Smith says.

“We don’t have quite the retail business we used to because of the big box store competition.”

Smith credits the company’s longevity to its tenacious work ethic — finding out what the customer needs and getting it immediately.

Like any smart small business that has survived four decades, A&S Electric sells experience and service.

“The secret to our success in that we are not a big company,” Smith says.

“We cater to the smaller to middle-size contractors. We give very personal service. I have employees — in the showroom and warehouse — who have been with me for over 10 years.”

Smith says he has been able to hang on through the bad economy with only a couple of layoffs out of about 20 employees, noting it helps that his business is in what he calls “a conservative, stable region.”

Smith says one trend he sees in tough times is that homeowners are more into nesting — improving and remodeling their current homes.

“With the economy what it is, a lot of people are making their homes, patios and backyards more desirable. They are upgrading lighting fixtures, adding landscape lighting and other improvements.”

As for the great lighting debate of our time, Smith thinks the jury is still out on whether the homeowner will accept the energy-efficient CFL bulbs.

“I think they may go the way of the 8-track. People who do their homework find out every single CFL is made in China and every CFL contains mercury, so it’s like bringing more hazardous waste into the home. And they are hard to dim.”

But he does see consumers embracing the LED lights, especially his commercial customers, who are being offered rebates on fixtures and other incentives by power companies to switch to energy efficient lighting. Such lighting does literally pay for itself with bulbs lasting up to 15 years or more.

Smith says his warehouse is well stocked with the latest design fixtures that support the versatility of LED lighting.

He says LED fixtures have changed the way contractors and business can do back lighting and under-counter, or under-cabinet, kick-space lighting. ■

For details, visit www.a-s-electric.com.