George J. Falter Co. Inc.
George J. Falter Co. Inc. (GJF) has been in business since 1878. More than 135 years ago, the business started out making and buying candy and delivering by street car and then by horse and buggy; however, much has changed over the last century.
The company has branched out into new product lines – supplying a wide range of candy, snacks, sodas, tobacco, frozen, refrigerated, as well as coffee and more – totaling over 9,000 items to independent retailers and convenience markets in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
Based in Baltimore, the company employs more than 140 people. With an in-house fleet, the business sends out approximately 30 trucks every day to deliver product to customers throughout the Mid-Atlantic. The company owns its facilities, including several buildings on the land. The headquarters has warehouse space, freezers and refrigerators, as well as on-site fueling and a small shop for light truck maintenance.
Standing apart with service
Frank “Frankie” Falter III, current president of GFJ, has been working at the family business since he was 13 years old and is the fifth-generation owner and operator of the company. Frankie’s son, Frankie IV, also works at the company part-time in the summer. “My son is currently 12 years old and will possibly someday take over the business, continuing the tradition as the sixth generation,” says Frankie.
Frankie also has a daughter that could possible run the company, which will depend on who is motivated more to take on the task. “My father, Frank Jr., and mother ran the business before me,” Frankie explains. “They have been retired for 12 years. Before that my grandfather Frank Sr., grandmother and Uncle Donald Falter ran the company passed down by Edward Falter, and of course, the start was George J Falter. I can’t leave out my wife, as well, Aimee Falter, is our controller and watchful eye of the company; doing a great job of that and raising the kids.”
Throughout the generations, GJF has held a simple mission: provide customers with high-quality products, memorable service and value. “I would say our customer service is what really sets us apart from other distributors,” Frankie explains. “As a family-oriented business, we strive to build relationships. If we make a mistake, we try to fix it right away. We offer next-day delivery.”
Frankie goes on to explain that GJF is truly a family affair. “Many of our employees are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters or cousins from the area, creating a family base within the family business, as well,” he details. “We hire family people who care about service, which can be hard to find in this economy. We have a great team of people and we want to keep them here. Also, I have two partners that are my right hand here, as well, Fred Parsons Jr. and Chris Bitzel, their sons and daughters have all worked here as well growing up.”
Frankie’s hands-on approach to the business keeps his head in the game. “I worked from the bottom up,” he recalls. “I remember hand-packing Christmas candy as a kid. I have stamped cigs, pulled orders, driven the trucks, design and built racks in the warehouse, designed buildings; the list goes on. Even to this day, it is still fun to get away from my desk for a while to do some welding or design work.”
A diverse line of products
When Frankie sneaks away from his desk, he can be found in the warehouse where the business stores a wide range of items for sale and delivery. The team still packs and ships candy, though the line has grown significantly since the early days. The company offers tobacco, juices, soda, gum, chips, paper goods and medicine. GJF was an early adopter of Slushy machinery and supplies. The team also stocks liquid coffee for machines, which is in concentrate form that requires less cleaning than brew coffee.
While the family business offers diversity and value in products, as well as leading customer service, growing big-box competition has made operation more difficult in recent years. “The biggest challenge we face is competition from businesses, such as Sam’s Club and the big outfits like that,” Frankie explains. “These companies have taken on a part of the market. Our customer base might venture to go out to those clubs and buy things at a lower price.”
Frankie details that such entities’ buying power is more tremendous than that of GJF. “We are battling price and we try to combat that with service,” he continues. “We are delivering to our customers, whereas if you are picking up a pallet of orders from that big-box store, you have four or five family members who have to go get it. We also offer the service of the salesperson coming to you and walking the store and making new suggestions. We try to help our customers improve marketing and sales. We also will deliver it, as well, not ruining your vehicle and time. Our model has been successful for a long time.”
Service continues to set the business apart, despite the competitive price point of larger operations. Frankie has found other ways to compete with the big-box stores: technology. GJF has always had a strong focus on efficiency. By improving systems on the back end of the operation, the crew can maintain efficiency and offer better service and faster turnaround for customers.
“My son and I have a passion for drag racing, you may see us at the local tracks in Maryland and up and down the East Coast,” says Frankie. “Both of the dragsters fly the name CANDYMAN on the cars. My father today still comes to the tracks regularly at 75 years old and helps out.”
GJF’s roots go way back, but Frankie and his team continue to look toward the future. The Falter family is happy with doing honest business, paying the bills and offering employees steady jobs. After more than 135 years, George J. Falter Co. Inc. continues to build strong relationships through diverse products and reliable service.