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Celebrating 125 Years

1897 – 2022

Welcome to the First Supply 125th Anniversary page. Join us for a walk down memory lane as we celebrate this momentous occasion. A lot has changed since 1897 when deliveries were made by horse drawn wagon, but our commitment to customer service has remained constant. We invite you to scroll through our virtual time capsule to learn more about our history, and milestone events.

First Supply 125th Anniversary
NOW
First Supply 125th Anniversary

Logo Evolution

The changes in our logo show the progression of the company from a single location to the multi-branch, multi-brand enterprise that First Supply is today.

First Supply 125th Anniversary

Historic Photos

These blast from the past photos provide a look at days gone by. The names and faces have changed, but the inventory shown is remarkably similar to the inventory carried by our branches today.

First barge load of soil pipe circa 1955

First barge load of soil pipe circa 1955.

La Crosse Plumbing Supply building facade

La Crosse Plumbing Supply building facade.

Fabricating soil pipe

Fabricating soil pipe.

Pipe stored in warehouse

Pipe stored in warehouse.

Pipe yard on the Mississippi River

Pipe yard on the Mississippi River.

Rolls of coiled tubing

Rolls of coiled tubing.

Crates of bathtubs

Crates of bathtubs.

Rows of well pumps

Rows of well pumps.

Offloading pipe from a barge

Offloading pipe from a barge.

Crates of toilets

Crates of toilets.

Canisters in the basement

Canisters in the basement.

Gerhard “Gary” Poehling

Gerhard “Gary” Poehling.

Wisconsin Supply Corporation

Wisconsin Supply Corporation.

Wisconsin Supply Corporation

Wisconsin Supply Corporation.

Wisconsin Supply Corporation

Wisconsin Supply Corporation.

Gerhards Showplace of First Supply

Gerhards Showplace of First Supply.

First Supply 125th Anniversary

Company Timeline

It all started in 1897 with three friends, a big idea, and a single location. In the decades that followed, the company kept pace as more people moved to the area and communities needed plumbing infrastructure. And while our founders could never have imagined the scope of the company today, we’re sure they would be impressed by our steadfast commitment to quality and service. Click to expand the headings below to read about the milestone events that occurred in each decade.

1890s

La Crosse Plumbing Supply Building Facade

May 20, 1897 La Crosse Plumbing Supply Company established in La Crosse, WI

La Crosse Plumbing Supply Company
La Crosse Plumbing Supply Company

In 1897, three tradesmen, Reinie Wesson, Henry Poehling and Ed Roesler pooled their resources to start a wholesale plumbing supply company to meet the needs of the area’s economic expansion. When they opened the doors of their new business, La Crosse Plumbing Supply Company was born.

Kohler Bath Fixtures Quote, 1897
Kohler Bath Fixtures Quote, 1897

122-128 S. Front St. (1897-1906)

212 S. Front St. (1906-1970)

106 Cameron Ave (1970-Present)

1920s

Steel Pipe

1917 La Crosse Plumbing Supply Company launches two subsidiaries

Star Wind Engine Invoice,1897
Star Wind Engine Invoice,1897

Just prior to the U.S. entering World War I in 1917, La Crosse Plumbing Supply was able to place a large steel pipe order that provided capital for two early subsidiaries. The first was the Cypress Stock Watering Tank Company and the second was the Star Windmill Company. Star Windmills can still be seen dotting the Midwestern countryside.

1930s

Pipe Yard on Mississippi

1933 Pre-war contracts with Fort McCoy provide a financial base for future growth

La Crosse Plumbing Supply Company
La Crosse Plumbing Supply Company

In the early thirties, the Great Depression made things tough for most businesses. Building was at a standstill and jobs were scarce. Once again, steel played an important part in the company’s future; La Crosse Plumbing Supply secured an order for the underground work at Fort McCoy during the buildup for World War II. This provided a larger-than-normal base allocation for steel and meant La Crosse Plumbing Supply was able to obtain material throughout the war years. The business thrived and funds were available for future growth.

1940s

Early Showroom

1940 Plumbing showroom concept originated by Gerhard “Gary” Poehling in La Crosse, WI

In 1940, Henry Poehling’s son Gary, who had worked both as a truck driver and warehouseman, took over the business. Gerhard “Gary” Poehling was an innovative and visionary leader. During his first year running the business, Gary opened what was likely the first kitchen and bath store in the country for contractors and homeowners to view kitchen and bath product displays.

1950s

Eau Claire Facility

1951 Eau Claire Plumbing Supply Company opens in Eau Claire, WI

In 1951, the time was right for expansion. Eau Claire Plumbing Supply Company was conceived and constructed to mirror La Crosse Plumbing Supply in both goods and services. Today the Eau Claire facility occupies the equivalent of two city blocks and serves a large part of the Northwestern area of Wisconsin.

La Crosse Plumbing Supply receives the first barge load of soil pipe

1955 La Crosse Plumbing Supply receives the first barge load of soil pipe

Firsthand Description of Photo
Firsthand Description of Photo

“La Crosse Plumbing Supply received the first of these barge loads of soil pipe that were sold the year of 1955. We upset the soil pipe market that year & they did not sell to us next year in barge load.

“Pictured from left to right: Paul Kinder, Eldon Lokken, Jim Sherman, A. Dovenmuenle (Dovey), Glenn Schrader, Hensel Everson, Ed Poehling, Gary Poehling, Bill Poehling, Bob Runningen, Philip Poehling and Don Kirby.

“Pipe was shipped from Combustion Engineering Co., Chatanooga, Tenn. It was the first time this had been done. The soil pipe was "Superspun" spun soil pipe versus hand cast pipe which was a very poor irregular wall pipe.”

1960s

Wisconsin Supply Corporation

1960 Wisconsin Supply Corporation opens in Madison, WI

Wisconsin Supply Corporation
Wisconsin Supply Corporation

Wisconsin Supply Corporation was opened on Mifflin Street in downtown Madison, Wisconsin in 1960. The original Wisconsin Supply had roots dating back to the mid-1800s and at one time had operated as a foundry that manufactured cannon balls for the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1990, Wisconsin Supply became the largest facility in the company when it built and moved to a new location housing 131,000 square feet of offices, warehouse, and showroom. Located on Madison’s busy beltline highway, Wisconsin Supply is a model for the industry … modern, efficient, in step with the needs of a progressive, growing Madison and able to service a large area of Southern Wisconsin.

Mifflin Street (1960-1990)

6800 Gisholt Drive (1990-Present)

1970s

1973 75th Anniversary Celebration in La Crosse, WI

75th Anniversary Open House
75th Anniversary Open House flyer

Open House from 1-7 PM on Friday, September 7, 1973. Good food and drinks from God’s country. Winners of the trip to Spain will be announced. Chicken-Q begins at 5 PM. Refreshments served continuously. Numerous prizes to be given away hourly.

1980s

Gerhards Showplace of First Supply
Gerhards Showplace of First Supply

1987 Gerhard’s name first used for the showroom

Gerhard “Gary” Poehling
Gerhard “Gary” Poehling

In 1987, a decision was made to give the showrooms their own, separate identity. To honor Gary’s innovative concept, the kitchen and bath stores were renamed “Gerhard’s”.

1988 Rochester Supply Company opens in Rochester, MN

In 1988, Rochester Supply Company opened its doors for business, becoming the fourth facility and the first outside of Wisconsin. Located on Rochester, Minnesota’s busy west side, the facility grew rapidly. Remodeling in both 1992 and 1994 has expanded Rochester’s existing building to 54,000 square feet. Since opening, Rochester Supply has more than doubled in size.

Wisconsin Supply breaks ground in Monona
“Welcome to our community,
Wisconsin Supply,
City of Monona,
June 2, 1989”

1989 Wisconsin Supply breaks ground for flagship branch in Monona, WI

1990s

Wisconsin Supply, Madison

1990 Wisconsin Supply Corporation Madison branch moves from downtown Mifflin Street to its new permanent location in Monona, WI

Wisconsin Supply Corporation Madison Branch
Wisconsin Supply Corporation Madison Branch

In 1990, Wisconsin Supply became the largest facility in the company when it built and moved to a new location housing 131,000 square feet of offices, warehouse, and showroom. Located on Madison’s busy beltline highway, Wisconsin Supply is a model for the industry … modern, efficient, in step with the needs of a progressive, growing Madison and able to service a large area of Southern Wisconsin.

1990 Rockford facility opens with the acquisition of Warm Air Supply

1992 Milwaukee Supply Company opens in Oak Creek, WI

1997 La Crosse Plumbing Supply Co. ‘Companies’ become First Supply Group, Inc.

First Supply Group, Inc.
First Supply Group, Inc.

In August of 1997, another significant announcement was made… the La Crosse Plumbing Supply Companies became First Supply Group. Each location has retained its own identity, but now all operate under the corporate umbrella name of First Supply Group.

1997 Acquisition of W.S. Patterson Company: Appleton, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Rhinelander & Wisconsin Rapids

As preparations were underway for celebration of the company’s 100th birthday, the company made its largest change to date. The acquisition of the W.S. Patterson Company added four more Wisconsin branches in Appleton, Green Bay, Rhinelander, and Wisconsin Rapids. W.S. Patterson started his company to supply plumbing and heating supplies to Appleton, Wisconsin in 1882.

100 Year Celebration
100 Year Celebration

1997 100 Year Celebration of the company

1998 Dubuque facility opens with the acquisition of Kretschmer-Tredway in Dubuque, IA

1999 Owatonna facility opens in Owatonna, MN

2000s

2000 Brainerd facility opens with the acquisition of Pump Co. in Brainerd, MN

2004 West Bend facility opens in West Bend, WI

First Supply LLC
First Supply LLC

2005 First Supply Group, Inc. becomes First Supply LLC

2005 Racine facility opens with the acquisition of Thomas Supply Company in Racine, WI

2006 Winona facility opens with the acquisition of Sherman’s Plumbing Supply in Winona, MN

2006 Janesville facility opens in Janesville, WI

2006 Delavan facility opens in Delavan, WI

110th Anniversary
110th Anniversary

2007 First Supply Celebrates 110th Anniversary

Central Distribution Center
Central Distribution Center

2007 Central Distribution Center opens in La Crosse, WI

2007 Cedar Rapids facility opens in Cedar Rapids, IA

2007 Acquisition of The H.W. Theis Company, Inc.

The May 1, 2007 acquisition of The H.W. Theis Co., Inc. added three facilities in Brookfield, Burlington, and Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Henry Theis began his career in the plumbing industry as an inventor. Henry developed the Theis ballcock which had a removable seat reducing cost of repairs and the need to replace the entire ballcock when the seat wore out. Henry wanted to try his hand in distribution so he and his son, Henry Jr. on June 15, 1927, began the H.W. Theis Co., Inc. becoming a top commercial distributor in Milwaukee and the surrounding area.

2007 Acquisition of PH&I Supply Company in Kenosha, WI

2007 Platteville facility opens in Platteville, WI

2008 Tomah facility opens in Toman, WI

2008 Twin Cities facility opens in New Brighton then moves to South. St. Paul, Minnesota in 2013

2010s

2010 Acquisition of JJ Koepsell Co. in Sheboygan, WI

KOHLER Signature Store, Edina
KOHLER Signature Store, Edina

2012 KOHLER Signature Store by First Supply opens in Edina, MN becoming the first distributor-owned, single-branded store in the country

KOHLER Signature Store, Edina
KOHLER Signature Store, Edina

With a strong, long-lasting history of bringing products to homeowners and the trade through trusted distributors, KOHLER heightens its accessibility with the opening of the first KOHLER Signature Store in Edina, Minnesota on  April 21, 2012. Soley owned and operated by First Supply, this kitchen and bath showroom provides a distinguished KOHLER experience where designers and homeowners can get hands on with hundreds of products, take advantage of expert consultation services and step into fully designed suites featuring products exclusively from the KOHLER brands: Kohler, Kallista, Robern, Ann Sacks tile and Kohler custom vanities. Additional locations were added in Wauwatosa, WI (2016), Overland Park, KS (2017) and Birmingham, MI (2018).

2012 Acquisition of KitchenCraft of Minnetonka, MN - Becomes a Gerhard’s Kitchen & Bath Store

2015 First Supply launches its eCommerce store on August 4

2016 KOHLER Signature Store opens in Wauwatosa, WI - LEED Gold Certification

KOHLER Signature Store, Wauwatosa
KOHLER Signature Store, Wauwatosa

When it opened in fall of 2016, the KOHLER Signature Store in Wauwatosa became the first retail space in the U.S. to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification under the LEED v4 guidelines. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) awarded the 5,800 square-foot showroom, LEED Gold v4 for Interior Design & Construction Retail.

120th Anniversary
120th Anniversary

2017 First Supply Celebrates 120th Anniversary

2017 KOHLER Signature Store opens in Overland Park, KS

2017 Brookfield, WI Gerhard’s moves to Delafield, WI

2017 Wausau, WI facility opens at 5506 Sternberg Ave, Suite B, Weston, WI 54476

2018 KOHLER Signature Store opens in Birmingham, MI

2018 Gerhard’s Kitchen & Bath Store acquires Wettstein’s lighting in La Crosse

New eCommerce Website
New eCommerce Website

2019 New eCommerce website FirstSupply.com launched

2020s

Katie Poehling Seymour
Katie Poehling Seymour
CEO and President

2020 Katie Poehling Seymour promoted to President

2021 Oshkosh First Supply moves to 1285 S Washburn Street

2021 Katie Poehling Seymour Announced as Chief Executive Officer and President 

Joe Poehling
Joe Poehling
Chairman Emeritus

2021 Joe Poehling Receives the ASA Fred V. Keenan Lifetime Achievement Award

2021 Freeport, IL facility merges with Rockford, IL

2022 First Supply Celebrates 125th Anniversary

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