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Modern Office Products Marks 35 Years in Business

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BOARDMAN, Ohio – Bill Cross sits at a table beneath a large tent on a hot Friday afternoon, greeting the many friends and customers who’ve joined him and his company to celebrate 35 years in business.

“The business has changed,” said the president of Modern Office Equipment Inc., 7825 South Ave. “There’s a whole lot more competition — everybody’s selling what we’re selling.”

Big-box discount retailers, drug stores, internet sites – all stock products such as legal pads, pens, and other routine office supplies, he said. And, the larger stores sell their share of office furniture.

So, how has Modern Office successfully navigated the ever-shifting trends in an industry when others have not?

“What we’ve found is that it’s still people-to-people,” Cross said as a steady stream of visitors enjoyed brick oven pizza and soft drinks, all the while taking in the company showroom and the vendor tables set up inside Modern Office’s warehouse. “We have to step up and find ways to create loyalty, and stress doing business with local businesses,” Cross said.

That’s one reason why Modern Office has been able to adapt to the many changes in the marketplace when others haven’t, Cross said.

“We’re huge on keeping business local, and that’s why I like dealing with you,” Tammy Stine, manager at RDW Homes, Canfield, told Cross.

It’s important that area businesses support one another, Stine said, and Modern Office is a go-to example of how a small local business can provide the level of customer satisfaction that the impersonal big retailers or online stores often cannot.

“They’re going to get your order to you the next day,” Stine said of Modern Office. “If you order it online, you’re not getting it the next day.”

And, although a company might pay slightly more for a product through a local vendor than a deep-discount store, Stine said it’s worth it in the long run because it helps the local economy and keeps jobs here. “We’ve got to keep Youngstown alive, so you have to stay local,” she stated, “or you’re killing your own economy.”

It’s a sentiment that small-businesses owners in the Mahoning Valley share. “We really try hard to do that. I’ll pay more sometimes just so I can buy here,” Cross said. “Who supports the Little League teams? Who does the donations? It’s all local.”

Cross established Modern Office in 1982, and the company has moved six times since its first storefront at the corner of Boardman-Canfield Road and Southern Boulevard.

This year, Cross reports, Modern Office’s furniture sales are 20% higher than a year ago. The economy is relatively strong, he noted, and many companies are finally pulling the trigger and upgrading their offices.

“Most of it is remodeling projects,” he said. “There are a few new builds. With the economy doing fairly well, a lot of people are replacing 20-year-old desks and chairs that were starting to fall apart.”

A strong growth segment for business is in its used and closeout division. “We sell three times as much as the new furniture,” Cross said, although some of the inquiries for used pieces are hard to fill, which often leads to purchases of new equipment.

The celebration Friday started out as a customer appreciation day that happened to coincide with the company’s 35th anniversary, Cross noted.

“We really wanted to thank out customers for supporting us,” he said. “It’s been a good year.”

Pictured at top: Bill Cross owner and operator of Modern Office Equipment Inc.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.