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Behind the List with Al Richter of Richter Drafting & Office Supply Co.

'Ethical, responsible and taking calculated risks'

Kim and Al Richter, owners of Richter Drafting & Office Supply Co., founded the company more than three decades ago. - (Photo / Christopher Holland)

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and that includes being able to help one another prosper.

One company that’s had a strong presence in doing that for more than three decades is Richter Drafting & Office Supply Co., Souderton.

Here to answer this week’s “Behind the List” questions is Al Richter, owner of Richter Drafting & Office Supply Co.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Richter Drafting & Office Supply Co. been operating in the region and what are its primary services?

Al Richter: Richter’s has been in business since 1985. We started out as a drafting supplies and blueprinting company before adding office supplies to our portfolio.

Since then, we’ve evolved, adding janitorial supplies, office furniture, safety supplies and mobile document shredding. We still also are heavily invested in the wide format market, selling plotters, engineering copiers and wide-format paper.

Our goal is to be a one-stop shop to simplify the ordering and fulfillment process for our customers, and we feel we do a good job of that.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Richter Drafting & Office Supply Co. has encountered throughout its years in business?

Richter: We started our business before the internet came into existence, so adapting to that was a unique challenge that all businesses faced, but not all were able to overcome.

In recent years, we have embraced our online presence, investing a significant amount of time and resources into creating an online ordering platform that we feel is on par with (or even better) than our “big box” competition.

Of course, another notable challenge over the years has been fighting off “big box” stores in general. While they are larger and have more buying power, they also have more overhead.

The net result is that we are incredibly competitive, and also can show a much better dedication and value to our customers. We do so by hand-delivering our products with our excellent team of drivers, advancing our technology for a better customer experience and by supporting them with the best customer service team around.

LVB: What are some of the company’s most notable products? Does it provide its products solely to clients in the Greater Lehigh Valley, or does it expand into other markets? Who are some of its most notable clients locally?

Richter: We service approximately a 25-mile radius around our corporate office in Souderton, so we do service the entire Lehigh Valley, but also go as far west as Pottstown, southwest to Phoenixville, Oaks and Conshohocken, southeast to Bristol and all the way up the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border.

We are proud to be a supplier for thousands of customers each year. Big and small, they all matter to us.

Some of our notable customers that our friends in the Lehigh Valley would be familiar with are Sharp Packaging, Bimbo Bakeries, Blommer Chocolate and Quakertown National Bank.

Notable products would include our mobile shredding division, plotters and engineering copiers, office furniture and we’ve actually also recently added drones to our arsenal. We also sell over 20,000 office, janitorial, break room and safety products.

LVB: How does Richter Drafting & Office Supply Co. directly stimulate the local economy? How does it get involved with the local community?

Richter: By shopping local in general, a far higher percentage of your dollars stay in the local economy.

Our largest expense, of course, is payroll, so knowing that all of our employees live in the local communities here makes a big difference, bigger than most people probably realize. Large corporations have 99 percent of their payroll going to places outside our local area, and if they’re shipping products via UPS or FedEx, it’s probably even higher.

Our company and our employees are definitely invested in the Lehigh Valley. Every year, we treat our employees to a night at the [Lehigh Valley] IronPigs, and my own son and his wife even live in the Lehigh Valley. Many of our employees, myself included, frequent the great cities in the Lehigh Valley for concerts, eating out and enjoying community events like Musikfest and Celtic Fest.

On top of that, we also believe in giving back to the community when we can. Each year around the holidays, we pick a day and donate 5 percent of our sales to a local charity, and we give to various organizations throughout the year, as well.

LVB: What does the future look like for Richter Drafting & Office Supply Co.? Does it have plans for growth?

Richter: Not that geographic growth would never happen, but our first and foremost priority is gaining market share in our current footprint. There is a lot of business to be had where we are located, and we’re always looking to grow our customer base.

We gain a lot of business by word-of-mouth, but also through our own internal sales process.

We hope to do as we’ve always done – conduct business in an honest and ethical way, be responsible with the resources that we have to ensure profitability and take thoughtful, calculated risks when the opportunity arises or outside forces require it.

It has worked for us for 32 years, and we sure hope to continue for many years to come.

Christopher Holland
Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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