It was all fun and games, such as tug-of-war, for employees and family members at ACR Supply’s Family Day.

DURHAM, N.C. - In order to hit its 30-year anniversary, a company has to be doing a lot of things right. After all, not many businesses reach their five-year anniversary, let alone three decades of success. That’s a special milestone and the management of ACR Supply Co. in Durham, N.C., know just who to thank for their success.

“Lots of folks have had a hand in our success,” said founder L.C. Meachum. “That includes our cus- tomers, employees, family, and good friends.”

ACR Supply distributes HVACR replacement parts, controls, and supplies throughout central North Carolina. Today, the company is run by Meachum, his son Troy (his eventual successor), and vice-president Lee Blakely.

Meachum said the company has thrived since its humble beginnings in 1977 due to focus on customer service. He acknowledged things have changed dramatically on the business management and technology side, but customer service has always been the staple for ACR’s success.

“It’s still a people business and people buy from people they like,” he said.


Both Meachum and Blakely had worked together for a Durham parts distributor when, in 1977, Meachum left the company and decided to start his own business. His very first customer was Duke University and soon other contractors began to bring their business over to him, including some who are still customers today. The list includes Comfort Engineers, Lee Air Conditioners, and Carolina Air Conditioning.

Blakely, who joined Meachum, said their first months in business saw many challenges, including keeping their own business a comfortable place to work.

“We didn’t really have any heating or air conditioning,” he said. “But one of our customers had an old gas-pack air conditioning unit and another customer let us make our own ductwork in his shop so we could install our own heat. There were times it got so cold in the warehouse that pen ink would freeze.”

But the company persevered and developed solid, lasting relationships that enabled it to establish credit lines and forge ahead. Meachum said his goal from the beginning was to pay off a bank loan and then grow the business. He also wanted to make sure Blakely got a paycheck, too.

Blakely, armed with a steady paycheck, said that he and Meachum were still challenged because they really didn’t have time to put together a business plan. They were too busy running the counter and helping customers. “But I felt good about our ability to do our jobs and felt good about the local economy,” said Blakely.

ACR Supply employees and its vendors share stories at this year’s ‘Vendor of Choice’ awards.

In 1980, Meachum brought Troy into the business and four years later, ACR opened its second branch in Chapel Hill, where Troy was put in charge. He said the responsibility gave him a new respect for business ownership. “I didn’t want to fail,” Troy said. “It was a very valuable learning experience.”

Troy eventually moved back to the Durham location to manage the business. Other locations opened, including Burlington, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem.

Thanks to their involvement with the Controls Group North America (CGNA), a marketing and buying group for the HVACR controls industry, all three men developed a strategic plan for the business.

Since that time, ACR has grown to employ 52 workers and plans to be the leading HVACR wholesaler in North Carolina in 2008. Despite the lofty goals, Blakely is proudest of the fact that 52 families are ensured of a future. “We are not only dedicated to our customers, but we are dedicated to our employees, too,” he said.

ACR thanked its best customers at its recent third annual Vendor of Choice (VOC) awards event. The Top 5 honorees included first-time winners Belimo, DuPont Fluoroproducts, and Heatcraft Refrigeration Products, and three-time winners Nu-Calgon Chemical Co. and Gates Corp.

Troy developed the VOC program - an evolving, proactive, constructive, and systematic approach to vendor-customer partnerships - during a 2003 strategic planning process.

“We wanted a process that would provide us with an avenue to offer our vendor partners constructive feedback and to facilitate two-way communication so both of us could get better at what we do and improve our processes,” he said.

Customer service and care for its employees has made ACR one of the top HVACR wholesalers, and if L.C. Meachum has his way, it will continue like that for many years to come. “It’s fun,” he said. “I want to be a part of this for a long time.”

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Publication Date:08/20/2007