After 100 Years in Home Improvement, Wallauer Is Better Than Ever

Table of Contents Left to right: Ed Klein, COO; Ethan Mason, district manager of the Westchester northern stores; Ron Bonventre, board member and manager of purchasing and inventory controls; Paul Mihalchik, district manager for the Westchester southern stores; and Jason Jackson, manager of central distribution for the largest Wallauer location, […]

Left to right: Ed Klein, COO; Ethan Mason, district manager of the Westchester northern stores; Ron Bonventre, board member and manager of purchasing and inventory controls; Paul Mihalchik, district manager for the Westchester southern stores; and Jason Jackson, manager of central distribution for the largest Wallauer location, in White Plains | Photo by John Vecchiola

Across four generations and a century of service, local home-improvement chain Wallauer keeps adapting to the times in Westchester.

Many companies struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. But not Wallauer, a fourth-generation, family-run, paint-and-hardware chain with 15 locations in Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties that is celebrating its centennial anniversary. Deemed an essential business during the pandemic, Wallauer never shut down during the crisis. It quickly built out its e-commerce capabilities — which were nonexistent before COVID — in March and April of 2020, so it could offer curbside pickup.

“Our business boomed,” says COO/CFO Ed Klein. “Even though we’ve been open 100 years, we saw a lot of new customers.” As a privately held company, Wallauer doesn’t publicize its revenue, yet Klein says it has seen a record two years when it comes to sales.

Left to right: Ed Klein, COO; Ethan Mason, district manager of the Westchester northern stores; Ron Bonventre, board member and manager of purchasing and inventory controls; Paul Mihalchik, district manager for the Westchester southern stores; and Jason Jackson, manager of central distribution for the largest Wallauer location, in White Plains | Photo by John Vecchiola

To mark its 100th anniversary, the 125-employee company, headquartered in a 30,000-square-foot store in White Plains, has been celebrating with COVID-safe activities. It’s holding a monthly raffle, with prizes such as Weber grills and gift cards. At its Pro Shows for contractors, held in the fall, it awarded tickets to sporting events.

Beating the odds

According to Family Business Review, a peer-reviewed academic journal that covers family-controlled businesses, only 3% of them make it to the fourth generation. So, how did Wallauer do it?

“It’s always been about entrepreneurial spirit and family-owned business, and the differentiation a family-owned business has,” says Klein.

Wallauer’s history started in 1921, in White Plains, when Clarence Rudolph Wallauer, a salesman, founded his own paint store (then called C.R. Wallauer & Co.) and became the local Benjamin Moore paint dealer. Wallauer, known as Wally to his customers, became a well-known figure in the community. After the store made it through the Great Depression, he opened a second store, in 1935, in Port Chester, and expanded by adding outside salesmen and two delivery trucks.

By 1946, Wallauer’s son-in-law, architect Robert Duncan Sr., joined the company. They expanded the White Plains store by buying an adjacent building on Martine Avenue and adding a large wallpaper-and-design studio known for its extensive wallpaper selection. Duncan served as president, while his wife, Jean W. Duncan, Wallauer’s daughter, became head designer, and son Robert Duncan Jr. worked as a stock boy.

Two years later, Charles Westerman joined the company, helping Duncan add new locations in Westchester County, including Yonkers, Yorktown, and Bedford Hills. Robert Jr. became advertising director after returning from the service and helped to spread the word about the company through radio and TV ads.

After 100 Years in Home Improvement, Wallauer Is Better Than Ever

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