For three-and-a-half decades, FHB Building Supplies has been servicing the construction trade in the greater Shannon region with a wide range of products – including plumbing, heating and electrical supplies – backed up by an outstanding level of service. We caught up with co-founder / managing director John Burke to discuss the continued success of this exceptional operation.
Since its inception 34 years ago, FHB Building Supplies Shannon Ltd. has forged a stellar reputation as the premier supplier of building materials in the region, offering its customers a vast selection of products at unbeatable prices and with a presales and aftersales service that is quite simply second to none. To a large extent, FHB has positioned itself as a partner to the trade rather than a mere supplier and the personal touch that embodies every facet of the business has been instrumental in its extraordinary success.
Today, FHB is the first port of call for tradesmen, contractors and DIY mavericks not just from the Shannon area bur from all over Banner territory. The business started trading on September 1st, 1981, founded by the late Frank Flaherty, Stephen Hassett (who retired in 2006) and John Burke, who remains on as MD. (The FHB in the company name stands for Flaherty Hassett Burke.)
“We started out in a 3,000 square feet unit, which we rented from Shannon Development, and we were there for five years,” John reflects. “In 1986, we bought three-quarters of an acre from Shannon Development and we developed a 7,000 sq ft building and started trading there in April, ’87. We are still in that same building here in Smithstown Industrial Estate today and have added another 3,000 sq ft in the meantime, bringing the premises up to 10,000 sq ft in total.”
In the early days, FHB was very much a specialist operation focusing on plumbing and heating products but it has since broadened its horizons to stock and supply a complete range of building materials. “We started off doing strictly plumbing and heating materials,” John confirms. “We added electrical materials in the early 1990s and went into steel around the same time. We now do general hardware, although plumbing, heating and electrical are still our main thing.”
As locations go, FHB Building Supplies couldn’t possibly be better situated. The store is impossible to miss, prominent on the first corner on the way into Smithstown Industrial Estate, easily accessible yet very much in the Shannon industrial heartland.
“We’re only two minutes from the Limerick-Ennis Motorway and we’re also close to Shannon Airport, with plenty of parking outside. It’s an excellent location for a building supplies company,” John notes. “People even shoot over the motorway from Ennis – it takes 17 minutes to get here and they can avoid all the hassle of getting bottled up in the town centre.
“There’s very little construction going on in the mid-west at the moment but we supply a lot of maintenance materials to nearby factories and to the airport, as well as the contractors who are still active in the county. We stick to Clare and the people we know.
“Some of them have been with us since Day One, especially the factories in Shannon Industrial Estate, which is obviously a massive industrial area, and also here in our own Estate, which is smaller but also doing well.”
The foresight of the founders of FHB can only be commended: the early ‘eighties was a very good time to establish a building supplies business in the area and the company has gone on to reap the dividends of being – by design rather than accident! – in the right place at the right time. “Back in 1981, Shannon was a new town and there were no hardware suppliers in the area. It was clear that they needed a local supplier and that was the niche market that we set out to fill,” says John, who adds that it was certainly no overnight success story:
“It took a long time to build the business up. There were a lot of long hours and a lot of very late nights. But it has been worth it and we have built up a nice business now. We had a staff of 13 during the peak years, but we are back down to nine now between full time and part time. Turnover is also down since the late ‘noughties but it’s the same across the board in construction and we are still doing well.
“We stock tens of thousands of items and we also provide an excellent service. We watch our margins and all of our lads are very familiar with what they are doing and are able to offer very good advice to customers. That personal service is very important and is one of the reasons why people keep coming back – we really look after our customers. Some of our staff would be with us for up to 20 years and most of them would come from electrical / plumbing backgrounds themselves.
“We also provide a very prompt and cost-effective delivery service all over County Clare. At the end of the day, everything we do is tailored towards giving customers the highest possible level of service.”
Over the years and decades, FHB Building Supplies Shannon has been a labour of love for John Burke. There have been ups and downs along the way but he has made the business work and has been able to make a living out of it, while providing customers with an invaluable service. Looking back at FHB’s immeasurable contribution to life in the Shannon region, he has no regrets whatsoever:
“We have had great fun and have made a lot of friends,” he concludes. “Our name is known countywide and we are part of the local community. We’re very proud of that.”
And rightly so.
FHB Building Supplies Shannon Ltd.
Smithstown Industrial Estate,
Tel: 061 362410
Fax: 061 362983
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Building Ireland magazine Vol 1 No 1, Autumn 2015