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Sterling Supply celebrates 60 years of service to customers

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- It doesn't matter when Okuno International needs a last-minute tool. Whether it's during traditional business hours or on a Saturday morning, Sterling Supply Co. takes care of it, said Maria O'Reilly, Okuno's general manager.

"They are very customer conscious, and this day and age, it's hard to find that type of company who will go that distance for you," she said.

That hasn't changed since day one, unless to get better over the years, she said, and it's one reason that Okuno has remained one of Sterling Supply's many loyal customers.

Those customers have helped the company thrive for six decades, said Sterling Supply President John Zitter. The company celebrated its 60th anniversary Thursday, and it decided to thank customers by hosting an open house celebration with food and exhibits from its suppliers.

The industrial distribution company -- which supplies tools used for shaping metal -- was congratulated by Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who made a proclamation declaring June 27 as Sterling Supply Company Day in Huntington.

Founded in 1953, the company was co-founded by Jack Zitter, who passed away in 1972. His wife, Regina "Jerry" Zitter took over until she passed away in 2000. Today, the company is run by two of their sons, John and Dr. Bill Zitter, a retired emergency room physician, who is Sterling Supply's vice president.

It now has 12 employees at Sterling Supply in Huntington, along with five at Sterling Industrial Products in Charleston.

Sitting at 850 7th St. West, Sterling Supply has a nearly 10,000-square-foot warehouse filled with cutting tools, abrasives, precision tools, band saw blades, maintenance lubricants and other equipment used by manufacturers throughout the region. It keeps about 10,000 different items in stock but also does special ordering for many others.

"A lot of what we carry are just-in-time (items) they don't want to stock themselves," John Zitter said.

Some of its biggest customers are Special Metals, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia and Steel of West Virginia, but in all it serves somewhere between 200 and 300 customers regularly -- all of whom are equally important, John Zitter said.

The company has seen incremental growth over the past couple years, Bill Zitter said. It's definitely noticed a rebound in the economy, though the future is still uncertain, John Zitter said.

On Thursday, loyal customers praised the company's cost competitiveness, focus on quality and willingness to accommodate.

Mark Berry, general manager of Harbor Steel in Prichard, is another happy customer.

"They've always been great with customer service," Berry said. "We like to keep our business local, and it's great to have people of this caliber to work with. John and the whole crew have always been very helpful."

Rick Martin, an industrial engineer with the Robert C. Byrd Institute, said whenever the institute is having an open house to show off its offerings, Sterling Supply comes through with whatever tools are needed.

"From day one, these guys have been one of the best partnerships we have," Martin said.