By Kalea Hall
Ron Granato, 73, stayed with the same company for nearly 50 years simply because it was a great company.
“Going to a bigger company, I never would have had the opportunity [I did],” he said.
Granato recently retired from Specialty Pipe & Tube after 48 years. The former Mahoning Valley resident now lives in Florida to be closer to his family and to enjoy the warm weather during his retirement.
Specialty, a distributor of seamless heavy wall carbon steel pipe and tube, was founded in 1964 by the late Leonard Baroff. It was originally located in Warren to be closer to the main customer base, including the largest customer, Wean United.
Not long after the company was formed, Granato came on board.
The Youngstown State University graduate, who has a chemical engineering degree and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Pittsburgh, was hired in at the end of 1969.
“The owner, Leonard, he had a very good idea of supplying the industry and service centers with high-quality [products] and very good customer service,” Granato said. “He was a real visionary.”
Specialty worked specifically to fill in the gaps that big companies missed.
“He had great instincts and built a company on a foundation of trust,” said Steve Baroff, Leonard’s son, who is now president of Specialty. “His hallmarks for Specialty were availability, reliability and performance. Customers and vendors had total faith in Specialty and trusted he would do exactly what he said he would do.”
Granato learned “enormous amounts” about running a business from Leonard.
“Whatever success I have had, I owe it to the people I supervised and the Baroff family,” he said.
Granato stayed in finance and sales with the company. When the steel mills were lost, Specialty had to reinvent itself, but because of Leonard’s good management style, Granato said the company stayed alive.
“When things are booming, anyone can make money,” Granato said. “But when things slow down, that’s when you can tell the companies that are well-managed and well-positioned.”
Specialty continued to invest in its people and in technology to attract new customers with new products.
In 1978, when the U.S. oil and gas industry took over, Specialty added a location in Houston to support the growth.
Granato kept getting promoted and was eventually named company vice president. He was also director of purchasing, and for a short time he ran all of the 401(k) investment plans for employees.
“It was a lot of responsibility,” Granato said.
Granato had opportunities to go elsewhere, but he was wedded to the area and to the company.
“My father infused this company with a culture of loyalty,” Steve Baroff said. “It has been a great place to work. I’m not saying [Granato] stayed out of loyalty, but I think loyalty goes a long way.”
What Granato brought to Specialty was stability.
“The man showed up every day to work, but most importantly found time to teach, train and guide the team – including me,” Steve said. “During his final six months, he spent a great deal of time training our newest salesperson.”
Granato doesn’t plan to fully retire. He plans to work part time as a teacher, which he also did for YSU when he lived in the Mahoning Valley.
Specialty, which is now owned by parent company Synalloy Corp. of Virginia, with 28 employees continues its growth through its good relationships with customers and vendors.
“It’s a great company and it adapted very well,” Granato said. “It’s adapted to the changing world.”