Powell Welding & Industrial Supply adds products, customer appeal
With an assist from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network, Gary Cole now runs the type of business he had wanted for years.
Gary, who owns Powell Welding and Industrial Supply LLC, went to work as a welder’s helper after high school. Later, he took jobs in welding supply and spent more than 15 years in the business.
Gary often thought of having his own welding supply company. He approached the owners of A&M Welding Supplies in Powell about buying their business. He also discussed his hopes with Bruce Morse, the SBDC’s regional director for Big Horn, Hot Springs, Park, and Washakie counties, but nothing materialized.
Then in early 2016, the owners of A&M Welding Supplies decided the time had come to sell. So Gary contacted Bruce again and asked a myriad of questions about how he should proceed.
“Gary was bouncing ideas off me, what about the purchase price, how to treat the inventory, what kind of offer might make sense? He was asking the right questions.” Bruce recalled.
Once Gary decided to buy the business, Rob Condie, the SBDC’s regional director for Lincoln, Sublette, Sweetwater, and Uinta counties, added his expertise. Rob is a Quickbooks ProAdvisor, and he helped Gary set up his bookkeeping system. The purchase was completed on May 1, 2016, and Gary renamed the company Powell Welding and Industrial Supply.
“He is really focused on taking care of his customers,” Bruce said. “As a result, he has not only kept most of the previous ones but continues to build the customer base daily. New signage and a very professional appearance to the store have helped as well.”
Since taking the helm, Gary has beefed up the store’s welding supplies. He carries a variety of welding gases, gloves, jackets, helmets, and other items.
“We probably about close to doubled our selection of the welding supplies,” he said.
The business also carries Schaeffer’s specialized lubricants and Baldwin filters, which are a line of heavy-duty filtration products. A good selection of hand tools and safety products also are available.
Despite falling crude oil prices, Gary has not noticed much decline in business from oil-field operators.
“When I took over, it was already down,” he said. “Honestly, I’ve done pretty well with the energy industry. With the filters, you have to keep the compressors and pumps maintained no matter what the price of oil is.”
At the same time, he said the demand for his products among farmers and ranchers has remained robust.
“A lot of this stuff ties together,” Gary noted. “Whether it’s a farmer or an energy guy or a welder coming in to buy a filter or welding supplies, pretty much all those people use all the products in the store, so there’s a lot of cross-over business.”
Carl Spomer, owner of Spomer Construction, frequently buys air and oil filters. “We are a company that changes our oils in a very short period of time,” he said. “Typically, we don’t run over 100 hours on a machine before we change oil.”
Carl appreciates the way Gary has spruced up the premises, including the addition of attractive product displays.
“He made a lot of positive changes in the operation,” Carl said. “It has a lot more appeal to the customer walking through the door.”
Steel sculptor and painter Mike Kopriva buys mostly acetylene and oxygen gas from Powell Welding and Industrial Supply. Currently, he is working on life-sized steel figures for a local bank.
“Gary’s been great to work with,” Mike said. “His prices are very reasonable, and he always has what I need.”