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Meet Kevin Garvey of Garvey’s Office Products in Niles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kevin Garvey.

Kevin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Garvey’s Office Products was founded in 1926 under the name Schiller & Schmidt. Bernard Garvey (my dad) started working for the company in the early 50’s. In the early 70’s he purchased the company from the founder and ran it for over 20 years. In 1993 five of his children purchased the company and immediately changed the name to Garvey’s Office Products.

At the time we ran the business from a 12,000 sf warehouse at 3100 Elson Ave. Soon after we purchased the company, Office Depot opened their first Chicago area store 1/2 mile from our location (soon after Staples came!!). Needless to say the pressure of such “deep pocketed” competition forced us to look for ways to differentiate our offering. That’s exactly what we did. We are now 15 times the size company that we were in 1993.

We looked to the examples of great local family businesses like Abt Electronics and John M. Smithe. These are companies that faced similar national competition to Garvey’s, but yet thrived in the face of it.

Our philosophy: To analyze what Staples does, then do the exact opposite!! For example, they make all of their deliveries with messenger services; so we hire our own drivers and buy our own trucks to make our deliveries. They distribute from a facility in Beloit, WI. So we bought a facility right in the heart or our delivery area (Niles, IL). They hire “hunters” to drum up business then hand accounts off to out-of-town inside sales people. We hire dedicated sales reps that build lasting relationships with customers who are supported by customer service right here in Niles, IL.

Back in the early 90’s, our tagline was “We make office supplies easy.” Then a few years later, Staples came out with the “Easy Button.” What were we to do? Sue them? Soon afterwards, we became “The Nice Guys in Office Supplies.” In hindsight, our current tagline suits us better. We have 100 of the nicest people working here at Garvey’s Office Products. In my 33 years with the company, the best thing a customer ever told me was “In all the years I have worked with you guys, I have never spoken to a person who seemed like they are in a bad mood.” Happy employees make for happy customers!!

As we start our 10th decade in business, we are as committed as ever to serving the business community of Chicago. We continue to grow and continue to have fun doing it!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have to say the road has been pretty smooth. I attribute that to outstanding luck and great parents. In the 24 years that myself, my three brothers and one sister have run the company, we have had an amazingly small number of fights. The biggest fight that ever happened was between my brother Dan and myself. A vendor had offered to let us throw the first pitch at a Cubs game. There were no punches thrown, but we called each other every name in the book. It was ugly! In the end, we flipped a coin and he won.

The fight was completely my fault. He played baseball, I didn’t. He threw a strike to the catcher, I would have thrown it over the backstop! See what I mean about good parenting!! Running a successful family business requires that everybody in the family works together and gets along. This especially means recognizing when you are a being a jerk.

He’s got a great pic of the pitch hanging in his office. I smile every time I see it.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Garvey’s Office Products – what should we know?
Garvey’s Office Products sells office supplies, office furniture, break room products and coffee, as well as janitorial supplies and technology products to over 3,000 Chicago area businesses (mostly from our website www.getgarveys.com). We operate from an 85,000 sq. ft. facility in Niles, IL. Garvey’s Office Products employs 100 people and delivers products on a next-day basis with a fleet of 25 trucks.

We offer consistently competitive pricing backed by outstanding local customer service. We also offer free recycling services to our customers. This includes all used toner cartridges, cardboard and all electronics (basically anything with a cord). A hundred percent of the proceedings we receive from the sale of these recyclables, we donate to local charities. To date, we have donated over $250,000 to dozens of charities, keeping waste out of landfills.

We are also a distribution partner of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Each year, we collect and deliver thousands of pounds of food donated by our very charitable customers.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Our parents, Bernie Garvey Senior and Loretta Garvey.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All photos copyright Garvey’s Office Products.

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