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Flushing biz holds off big-box rivals

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But its hardest fight may have come in the...

By Matthew Monks

Over the past seven decades, Peck’s Office Plus in Flushing has had its share of hardship. The family business has stayed in the black through the Great Depression, World War II and slew of modern recessions.

But its hardest fight may have come in the past 15 years, as the office supply market has been flooded with dozens of corporate behemoths, said company president Robert Peck.

His 75-year-old commercial supply and retail chain has to elbow for space with the likes of Wal-Mart, Staples and OfficeMax — companies with deep pockets and familiar brand names.

“It’s very difficult. Think about it — I’m a grain of sand on the beach.” said Peck, the third-generation manager of the Main Street-based company. “The bottom line is they’re not cheaper and they’re not better than us. They just out advertise us.”

To stay afloat, he said his business has to be flexible, creative and committed to its most valuable asset: the customer.

Peck’s original store opened on Main Street in 1929, a time when shopkeepers offered slower, more comprehensive service. Shopping was as much about browsing and consulting with employees as it was about making a purchase.

“Those days are over — except in stores like ours,” Peck said.

The corporate chains, he said, are manned by poorly trained stock boys who offer customers little service beyond fetching products from the back room.

Peck’s employees, he said, are experts in their field and make a special effort to meet customr needs — such as calling the manufacturer for the capacity of a commercial stapler or ordering sturdier office chairs for heavy-set clients.

Peck’s has managed to hold onto its roots while adapting to a modern market.

When Robert Peck’s grandfather, Herman, first went into business, Peck’s was a toy and sporting goods store. It shed those products in the 1940s and today stocks 4,000 different office goods and 6,000 art supplies. In the past decade it has branched into an office planning and design service, Robert Peck said.

To keep its prices competitive, Peck’s relies on the IS group, an office product cooperative comprised of roughly 700 other independent dealers.

While it has two retail stores — at 36-18 Main St. in Flushing and 59-32 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood — he said nearly 60 percent of its sales comes fro commercial distribution.

With designs of expanding its warehouse and office space in the near future, Peck said that’s where his company’s future lies.

“We see our growth in catering to the commercial customer,” Peck said, “to the needs for office furniture and furniture planning.”

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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