Today, JNS-SmithChem specializes in resins, functional fillers and extenders, color pigments and additives, as well as a complete line of industrial packaging. While its largest market is paint and coatings, the company has grown substantially in the adhesives, plastics, rubber, building products, graphic arts, cosmetics, textiles and paper industries as well.
“We have a comprehensive line of products,” noted Michael Smith, co-president of the company along with Alan Newfield. “If you are making a coating, we offer everything, including the can to package it in.”
Over the years, the company has grown from its humble New York City roots. In addition to its 100,000 square foot headquarters in Paterson, NJ, they have additional warehousing capabilities in Baltimore, Atlanta, Houston, Akron, OH and Wilmington, MA. Today, JNS-SmithChem’s leaders look forward to further expansion in the coming years. Future geographic expansion appears imminent based on the company’s century-long formula for success.
Casper Smith opened Smith Chemical and Color Company, Inc. on John Street in New York City, and continued with the company well into his 80s.
“My career began in 1983, and my grandfather was still coming into the office,” Smith said. “He used to say that wherever you see a smokestack, there is a potential customer.”
Michael’s father Eugene Smith joined the company in the early 1950s, and became president. Michael succeeded his father and became president in 1986.
In 1992, Smith Chemical was purchased by Howard Greenwald and Lansco Colors, and became the Smithchem Division of Lansco Colors.
“We grew the business and had a great relationship,” said Don Greenwald, Lansco Colors’ CEO and president. “At the right time, we sold it to JNS, and they became our representative in the east. Nobody knows the industry better than Michael, and Bob is a technically accomplished well-liked sales executive and marketing professional. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
In 2005, Smithchem acquired Jesse S. Young Company, forming Smithchem & Young and expanding its territory from New England and south to Virginia as well as adding new product lines. “That acquisition worked very well. Irv Young was retiring and looking to sell,” Smith noted. “A lot of New York-based manufacturing companies were moving south and we decided to follow them. It was a perfect fit, as none of our product lines were in conflict. They brought in additives, resins and other products that strengthened our presence throughout the East Coast.”
The major move came in 2009, when JNS Supply Co., led by Jachts and Newfield, acquired the Smithchem & Young Division from Lansco, and formed JNS-SmithChem, LLC.
“Usually there are conflicts of interest, but this was perfect fit, which is so unusual,” Newfield added. “We see deals weekly, and see the conflicts that arise, but no one gave up anything. If you want to grow, you have to extend your territory. It has worked out really well for our company.”
One sign of a successful distributor is its long-standing relationships with principals. JNS-SmithChem has many whose long-term mutual efforts have continued for decades.
“We have 30 principals, which is very manageable,” added Bob Whiteley, JNS-SmithChem’s EVP. “We sometimes turn down taking on more principals, as it could reduce our ability to offer quality representation to each of our product lines.”
“Some of our long-term relationships with principals such as R.T. Vanderbilt, OMNOVA (formerly Eliokem and Goodyear Chemical) and Mississippi Lime go back more than 50 years,” Smith added.
Changes in the Distribution Industry
The chemical industry has undergone a major transformation in recent years. The same is true for chemical distribution and the customer base it services.
“Several regional distributors have been consolidated into larger national suppliers, while many small customers have been absorbed by larger companies or private equity. Yet so many good suppliers understand the importance of relationships with their distributors as a valuable adjunct to their companies,” said Newfield.
JNS-SmithChem CEO Darren Jachts said that the ability to provide excellent, customized service is a key differentiator for the company. As an example, Jachts noted that JNS-SmithChem has one large customer for which they partnered top create special barcode labels.
“JNS-SmithChem is privately owned by owners, with each partner having over 30 years in the industry and each are fully committed to the business,” said Jachts. “Being privately owned, we can make decisions quickly and do certain things for our customers that larger companies simply cannot. We have a sister company, Jachts Columbia Can, LLC in the industrial packaging business. Our ability to deliver a comprehensive line of raw materials and containers with prompt shipments via our own fleet of company-owned trucks is of tremendous value.”
Improved service is of critical importance to customers.
“Customers expect better and faster service and immediate response on inquiries,” Smith noted. “Our sales people have to be accessible at all times.”
“Our customers and suppliers depend on us to hold adequate inventories as they strive to reduce their own. Our suppliers have cut back on sales staff and lean on us to handle more and more of their sales and supply chain requirements,” Newfield observed.
The Future for JNS-Smithchem
JNS-SmithChem’s leaders see a bright future ahead as the company begins its second century of service.
“You have to make moves to grow your business,” Newfield noted. “So much is timing. We like where we are now.”
“We feel there will always be a need by suppliers for good distributors with close customer relationships and also from customers who are looking for people to help them solve their problems and develop new products,” Whiteley said. “That’s where distributors provide the most value.”
“We consider ourselves experts for each product line that we represent,” added Smith. “Adding sales representatives with technical experience will be critical based on the increased demands put on us from our customers and suppliers. We now have a presence in the Midwest with our distribution center in Akron.
“In conclusion, we expect continued growth through territory expansion and prudent acquisition,” Smith added. “We can move fast, which is a huge advantage for our company.”