Graybar Electric Company in the U.S.
Elisha Gray, an inventor, and Enos Barton, an entrepreneur, founded Gray & Barton in Cleveland, Ohio in 1869. In 1872, this partnership became Western Electric Company, which supplied telegraph components to the Western Union Telegraph Company. After the invention of the telephone, Western Electric became the exclusive manufacturer of the telephone equipment for the Bell System.
By the early 1900s, Western had grown to be one of the largest manufacturing concerns in the world. Western Electric also managed a thriving electrical distribution business, furnishing its customers with non-telephone products made by other manufacturers. This electrical distribution business was spun off from Western Electric and organized into a separate company, Graybar Electric Company, Inc., in 1925.
Frank Ellis and Sam Howard launched Ellis & Howard in August of 1913 in a barn on David Street in Kitchener, Ontario. The business began as an electrical contractor, wiring homes and industries to the new electrical distribution system in Ontario. As demand increased, electrical fixtures, appliances and materials were added to the business.
In 1924, Ellis & Howard discontinued the electrical wiring business and specialized in the wholesale of electrical goods. The business enjoyed success from the 1920’s until the 1990’s, weathering recessions and the Great Depression. In 1992, Graybar Electric Company purchased the firms’ assets and employed all of the firms’ 80 employees.
Harris and Roome Supply Ltd.
Harris and Roome was founded by J. Arthur Harris and R.E.G. Roome in 1920 under the name Harris and Roome Limited. Initially, the firm did business as a small general wholesale shop selling guns, canoes and electrical supplies in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1963, Mr. Harris and Mr. Roome sold their business to H.C. Roberts and A. MacDonald, employees of General Electric. By 1983 Harris and Roome grew to 12 locations after the acquisition of the Atlantic operations of GESCAN (General Electric’s Canadian electrical distribution arm) and over the next few years went on to open another six branches.
In 1991, Graybar Electric purchased an interest in Harris and Roome. Over the next six years, they became a majority shareholder, completing the acquisition in 1997, all the while maintaining a local feel and keeping strong ties to the community.
Operating as One Company: Graybar Canada
After the creation of Graybar Canada in 2000, the brands of Harris & Roome Supply (Atlantic) and Graybar Electric (Ontario) Limited came together as Graybar Canada. In November of 2001, after the first share offering under the leadership of Frank H. Hughes, nearly 40% of Graybar Canada employees became shareholders in Graybar Canada.
Graybar Canada developed a presence in the Western region in 2003, by opening the Western Regional Office in Calgary, AB.
Currently, Graybar Canada operates 30 locations across the country from St. John’s, NL to Vancouver, BC. Headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the wholesale distributor of items from leading manufacturers of electrical and communications & data products continues to be a thriving employee-owned company under the leadership of Brian Thomas, Executive Vice President & General Manager.