Water reaches nearly every room in a home and its quality affects taste, cooked food, linens and even the longevity of appliances, fixtures and plumbing.
Over the years, water has become a big business. For Gordon Brothers Water of Salem, 2012 was its best in the 68 years it’s done business.
But if you ask Ned Jones, his son Scott and his wife, Carolyn — they hope next year will be even better.
Ned, who serves as president, and Scott, who serves as the company’s executive vice president, are respectively the second- and third- generation owners of a company that was established in 1945 by Carolyn’s father, Lloyd Gordon.
If you’ve never heard of Gordon Brothers, chances are you’ve tasted their work.
The company’s bread and butter is water treatment. Though it may sound like an anomaly, water treatment is a precursor to achieving, for example, the perfect cup of coffee or the pristine flavor of a fountain soft drink poured at a local restaurant.
Gordon Brothers sells, installs and services complex water treatment systems that soften water, make it tasty and clear and remove the scale build-up that can ruin appliances and fixtures and shorten their life.
The company serves the residential and commercial markets, doing business with homeowners and restaurants among others.
Depending on which of the 45 products the company carries and installs, a series of tanks, filters and other equipment is installed by Gordon Brothers that removes common dissolved minerals, chlorine and particulates that can pollute well or city water and gum up appliances, leave water stains on fixtures, stain linens and pose minor health risks if left unchecked.
Gas water heaters operated on softened water — the kind free of dissolved minerals — maintain their original factory efficiency over a 15-year lifetime, but when hard water is used, such equipment loses 48 percent of its efficiency in the same time, according to research conducted by the Water Quality Association, an industry trade group.
The benefits of treated water, then, are clear. For the Joneses, their business represents an investment for their customers.
The water-treatment industry has come a long way since the end of World War II, when Gordon Brothers was founded.
In those days, Lloyd Gordon primarily kept busy with the installation and replacement of water exchange tanks, which essentially soften water laden with calcium and magnesium, for instance, by exchanging it with sodium-treated water.
Today, salt is still used to treat water. Gordon Brothers offers full- service salt delivery, but technology and consumers’ evolving thirst for quality drinking water have augmented the business.
Since the 1990s, bottled water has earned a prominent position in the U.S. beverage market, consistently beating out soft drinks and fruit beverages in recent years.
“Over the last 30 years, our business has changed dramatically,” Ned said. “People are more aware of their drinking water now than they ever have been before.”
Growth has not been lost on Gordon Brothers. The company has a footprint in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
A large part of that growth can be attributed to a deal the company entered with Kinetico in the early 1970s. Kinetico, a worldwide company that engineers and manufacturers water treatment systems for use across the U.S. and in nearly 100 countries, is based in Newbury, Ohio, and is considered one of the largest companies in the business.
Gordon Brothers is an authorized independent dealer of Kinetico products, and it has an exclusive grip on 10 counties in the three states it serves. Although Kinetico has hundreds of dealers nationwide, Gordon Brothers is a top-10 Kinetico dealer.
About seven years ago, Gordon Brothers also became a service provider at 20 Home Depots in Ohio and Pennsylvania. When customers purchase Kinetico water treatment systems there, Home Depot sends Gordon Brothers to install and service them.
This arrangement alone has accounted for a third of Gordon Brothers’ business.
In an effort to focus on the growing aspects of its business, Gordon Brothers sold its 5-gallon bottled-water cooler division to Savanna Springs Water Solutions of Lowellville last month.
The division accounted for about 3 percent of total revenue and the company felt it was time to focus on its core strengths.
Although Scott is in line to take the helm at Gordon Brothers at some point in the future, Ned and Carolyn, who are approaching their 50th wedding anniversary, show no signs of slowing down.
“We love this business. Why would we want to retire?” Ned said as he searched for a good answer to the question of what’s next for the couple.
The Joneses work well as a family, and its been a cornerstone of the business since it was founded in 1945, Carolyn said.
The current trio was quick to give credit to their 45 employees, who they said are crucial in delivering a customer-driven business model that keeps the company strong.
“We want to provide a value-added service to our customers,” Scott said. “If you can’t provide that, you’ve got nothing — that’s what separates Gordon Brothers from others.”
Going forward, Scott says he hopes to continue growing the company by building on the gains Gordon Brothers has made in recent years and expanding service and installation in the tri-state area.
Ned was quick to add that the focus also will remain on the company’s local ties and family-oriented business that has helped drive growth over the years.
“We’d like to be the No. 1 Kinetico dealer in the country,” he said. “We’re very competitive here and above all else we want to provide a good living for all the people we employ.”