Multi-Housing Depot is 126 years old. To give that some context, in 1894 Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the first time, and the first battery-operated switchboard was installed by New England Telephone and Telegraph. We have come a long way since then – and so has Multi-Housing Depot.
This fifth-generation family-owned business specializes in cabinetry, but also offers appliances, windows, doors, lighting, plumbing, and so much more. It serves the Mid-Atlantic and has shipped as far as California to the west and Florida to the south.
Businessman Edward Robert Bell began Bell Storage and Warehouse in South Philadelphia when he was in his thirties. “What he did not know at the time was that this small venture would see 126 years of progress and would span five generations of his family history!” says Matthew.
Bell Storage and Warehouse catered to South Philadelphia and the downtown metropolitan area and served companies like John Wanamaker Department Store and Gimbel Brothers. Horse-pulled delivery carts moved household furniture and goods daily. “With the advent of the engine, the company also owned its own fleet, comprised of five delivery trucks,” says Matthew.
The company grew steadily into the 1960s, when the current owner, one of Edward’s grandsons, Ed Bell, took over. He started running the company with his father. At this time, there was a shift in the overall business plan. The customers of Bell Storage Warehouse were builders and apartment complexes. One of the company’s earlier partnerships was with appliance brands such as GE.
“GE actually had a hand in changing our name. As we evolved from Bell Storage & Warehouse, it went to Appliance Replacement Inc. (ARI) on a suggestion from GE in 1987. Our customers would know we were in the appliance business because of the change,” says Matthew.
For years, the company was known as ARI, and some customers that have been with the company for over thirty years still use that name. ARI went from delivering appliances and storage to distribution and manufacturing before adding installation to its services. All the while, it was working to improve its offerings. Thus, Multi-Housing Depot was born.
It was first Multi-Housing Depot by ARI, so customers would not lose sight of the company they had known. Over the last few years, it dropped the ARI. “We represent ourselves to the industry as a full-service multi-family distributor and manufacturer,” says Matthew.
Multi-Housing Depot is headquartered in Burlington, New Jersey today, and also has two distribution locations, one in Jessup, Maryland and one in Westampton, New Jersey, about a mile from the Burlington headquarters and manufacturing facility, which opened in 2019.
“We have three lines of cabinet manufacturing to go along with countertop production. The operation in Maryland also possesses countertop production and acts as a distribution hub,” says Matthew.
There is an air of excitement surrounding the new showroom in the company’s Burlington headquarters. Multi-Housing Depot wants to show some solutions from around the world that it is making in this new space. “I have brought some members of our team, including my son, to different parts of the world for the purposes of research and to seek out new technologies. We have been able to bring some of it back to incorporate it into what we do,” says Matthew.
The new showroom will enable the company to address trends, amenities, and colors to help customers satisfy and keep residents while keeping their communities desirable and to maximize on their investment.
“It will be an important part of the showroom and will appeal to our target audience, which include the architect, designers, and building owners. We want to help them retain relevance and have an efficient use of space for their investments,” says Matthew.
Matthew wants to emphasize that Multi-Housing Depot is more than just a kitchen cabinet manufacturer. Through the years, it has had to come up with some unique solutions in order to compete with less expensive imports, especially on the cabinetry side. It survived and prospered by delivering what its customers wanted and taking their needs to heart.
Multi-Housing Depot employs a great deal of advanced equipment and has incorporated software packages that allow it to serve customers with custom designs. Recently it invested in new design technology that will change the way it does business with customers in the future. It has a pioneering spirit and hopes to change the industry for the better through its efforts.
“We like to go into a partnership with our customers and provide a consultative approach, dependent on the need. We are dedicated solely to multi-family, and the products we offer include appliances, cabinets, AC and anything a multi-family community needs. We go in, sit down, and develop a concept to install readily,” says Matthew.
Multi-Housing Depot received an award for Best Overall Company from the prestigious Apartment Professionals Total Source (APTS), an industry publication. The company has garnered several awards from The APTS over the years. One of the reasons it has been so successful is because of its ability to hold onto experienced employees. Over thirty percent of its employees have been with the company for over ten years.
Over the last six to seven years the company has doubled in size. I asked Matthew how this could possibly be sustainable, and he emphasized an ingrained work ethic based on the belief that Multi-Housing Depot expects to always be growing. That has been the mentality of the company and the family over the last 126 years. There is slow, steady growth every year, and ultimately, that is why the company succeeds.
There is a lot of room to grow due to the plethora of services offered and the relationships Multi-Housing Depot nurtures. “We are a part of many different industries and associations, so our rapid growth is and has been sustainable over 126 years due to our methodology and process. We are dedicated to our customers and the industry,” says Matthew.
There is still so much opportunity since its existing customers may not be aware of the full range of services offered by Multi-Housing Depot. “When you talk multi-family, there are so many different facets involved. We are only scratching the surface of possibilities,” says Matthew.