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1250 Touhy Avenue • Elk Grove Village, IL • 60007 •
Harold And Rick Steiner

  Three generations, George S. Steiner (photo), Harold M. Kerman (left), and Richard A. Kerman

We take so much for granted and we actually have little idea and appreciation for everything behind the scenes which makes electricity available to us 24/7. We have all experienced a power outage, driven down a poorly lighted street late at night or have spent hours working on our computer to lose a document due to a power surge. Everyone depends on the electrical distributor to provide the products, technical support and delivery to the contractor, factories, hospitals, schools, sporting venues, shopping malls, food stores and our homes. To think that something so significant all began a relatively short time ago……


An Early Profile

On February 11, 1847 Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio. This great American inventor held 1,093 patents at the time of his death in 1931. He was most famous for inventing the phonograph in 1877 and the incandescent light bulb in 1879. Edison did not “invent” the light bulb, he significantly improved a 50-year-old idea along with designing a lighting system to bring electricity into the home. On September 4, 1882 in Lower Manhattan, New York City, the first commercial power station went into operation. 1882 was also the year The Western Edison Light Company was founded in Chicago (later to become the Commonwealth Edison Company in 1902). In 1888, the Chicago Edison Company opened the first electric power station in Chicago.

George S. Steiner was born in Chicago on August 27, 1887, the ­oldest of five children working his way through high school and never attending college. Steiner grew up during a time that electricity was coming into use and witnessed progression from gas mantle to electric lights.

However, in April 1917 the United States entered World War I. George closed his company and joined the United States Cavalry in 1918. The war ended in November of that same year and George ­returned to his business.

George was very active as an adult leader in the Boy Scouts. ­During a scout leadership meeting he met a Girl Scout leader, born in ­England, by the name of Jane Woodman and they were married shortly thereafter on August 31, 1922.

In the early years, Steiner Electric Company was similar to the ­typical turn of the century electrical distributor ­offering basic electrical supplies and lighting. Later, the company expanded into an ­appliance dealership selling blenders, shavers, washing machines, ­radios, clocks, Christmas lights, doorbells and other consumer goods from such major manufacturers as Hamilton Beach, Remington and GE. The company even sold American Flyer train sets. Up until the mid-1950’s, the company published two separate catalogs, one for electrical supplies the other for appliances. Over time, appliance dealerships became standalone retail marketers, while lighting fixture showrooms aligned with electrical distributors.

The appliance dealership image was not part of Steiner’s long term strategy. Eliminating this segment opened up additional space to ­expand their lighting showroom. During that time, Steiner may have been the largest lighting fixture showroom in northern Illinois. As the industrial backdrop changed, so did Steiner by strengthening the core and focus of the company’s electrical products. In 1972 the ­residential lighting showroom closed to further devote attention to the manufacturing, commercial, institutional and contractor markets.

The late 70’s early 80’s was in a significant growth period, but not without changes, ­commitment and investments. Manufacturing was changing from electrical-mechanical to electrical-electronic controls. Steiner responded by forming an Automation Products Group to provide specialized products and services for the factory floor and the original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) who service that market. At the same time the company developed a team of lighting and switchgear specialists, and full-service Will-Call counters to support the contractor market.

During this same period Steiner moved its corporate headquarter and in 1979 opened Rockford with a two-person sales office on the second floor of the historic Tebala Towers (the old Faust Hotel) in downtown Rockford. A few months later they moved into a large office on the State Street level. In 1983 Steiner purchased a 14,400-sq. ft. building at 5902 Material Ave. in Loves Park. That location became too small and on September 29, 1994 Steiner moved into their newly constructed, 50,000 square foot, 4.5 acre, facility located at 6900 Rock Valley ­Parkway.

1994 was a busy year for the company. In addition to the Rockford expansion, Steiner ­became one of the first electrical distributors in the country to receive ISO 9002 Certification on June 30th from Underwriter Labs.

Entrepreneurs….the commitment never stops!

Prior to George Steiner passing away in 1957, Leon Weisbrod was appointed president. George’s son-in-law, Harold Kerman, CPA, was a financial advisor until 1968 when Harold transferred his share of Kerman Alport Certified Public Accountants to his partner and joined the family business full time. Harold’s vast business experience and vision launched Steiner in a new ­direction. In 1979 Richard Kerman, youngest son of Harold and Joan, joined the company full time after college.

The process of reinventing and transforming Steiner Electric never stops. Today there are eight locations; Rockford, St. Charles, Gurnee, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Tinley Park, Elk Grove and ­Hobart, Indiana. To support their strategic business model of providing more complementary products and service for the plant floor, Steiner acquired Otto Frankenbush Electrical Supply Company in 1988 and Excel Electric Services Company in 1992. In 1999 Steiner ­acquired Powertron, a generator service company, to launch their new generator sales, service and rental division. That same year, Steiner acquired Crown Industrial Supply, a distributor for cutting tools, abrasives, chemicals, and general industrial supplies, which took them into integrated supply market taking responsibility for tool crib management and MRO (Maintenance Repair Organization) products for an entire manufacturing facility.

If Steiner doesn’t have it in stock, chances are no one does!

It’s hard to drive around Northern Illinois during the week and not pass a Steiner blue delivery truck; they are part of the landscape. Much of what Steiner does is behind the scenes to the average ­person, but to the professional trades the breadth and depth of Steiner’s product knowledge, technical support and huge inventory is very well known.

A large company with a true family culture, company values and commitment to community service

A visit to the facilities of Steiner will quickly reveal the secrets of their success – People, the members of the Steiner family; a team of over 425 professionals driven by a very simple vision statement – “Uncompromising integrity, quality and growth through dedicated people and resources.”

Walking through the corporate headquarters there is a feeling not common within a large corporation. The walls are decorated with photos from employee parties, many industry and supplier achievement awards, and employee recognition plaques. The variety and quality of the paintings is as though you are in your own home. ­Taking a close look at the signatures you see Jane W. Steiner or Joan S. Kerman, the wife and daughter of the founder, both of whom are very talented and accomplished local artists.

In 2008 The Steiner Kerman Education Foundation was established to provide scholarships to students with limited financial ability. This is offered to the children of Steiner employees and to the ­communities where there is a Steiner location.

Rock Valley College has been the recipient each year. This culture of giving back to the Rockford community is deeply rooted within the Steiner Team.

The employees have initiated an annual coat drive through ­Salvation Army’s Koats for Kids. The team constructed 14 large Huts which are delivered to specific sites each year during the month of September. To date, they have donated approximately 3000 coats for children within the Rockford community. In addition to the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the Boy Scouts of American, the Steiner Rockford team answered the call to collect donations for school supplies to benefit the students of Riverdahl ­Elementary School and participated in various fund raising events to benefit the Rockford Rescue Mission.

Today Steiner Electric Company provides products and services that were never imagined when George founded the company in 1916. In contrast, most of the locally-owned electrical supply houses from the early 1900s have either been acquired or are no longer in business. Yet Steiner Electric Company has grown and thrived ­because of its ability to embrace change and offer cost effective ­solutions that work….for over 100 years. “Helping you be the best for your customer”

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