The Raritan Group: What We’ve Learned from 80 Years in Business

In 1943, when my father, Harry A. Richardson, Sr., started the company that would become the Raritan Group, his only intention was to supply plumbers with toilets, sinks, and the like, but it was a fortuitous moment to get into this business. The United States was fighting World War II, and America was coming into its own as a manufacturing and industrial superpower—with New Jersey as a major hub. Over the course of eighty years, we’ve had our ups and downs, and we’ve learned a few important lessons that I hope are relevant beyond our sector and the state of New Jersey.

People are your greatest asset. Four generations of Richardsons make us a quintessential family company. My three sons jointly run the company today, and their level of cooperation sets a company-wide example. From the Richardsons in the front office, to the sales and technical teams, to the office staff, everyone here is fully committed to excellence and ethics. Without them we’d have nothing, and we stand by them when health or personal crises arise. The loyalty is mutual, and we grow more effective together, decade after decade. (And while they’re not technically “people,” the dogs here at Raritan play an essential role in our company culture and connect us all on a deeper level.)

Ride out economic trends. The history of Raritan is a history of American industrialization. In the 1950s and 1960s, as New Jersey became a world capital of industry, chemicals, medicines, and metalworking, Raritan took part in the dynamic growth. During my tenure, we added more industrial capacity. Ensuing decades saw ebbs and flows in the sector, accompanied by uncertain times for the company, but we always prevailed. Raritan was well positioned for the resurgence of American industry in recent decades as well as the infrastructure investments of the past five years, including water treatment and lead pipe replacement.

Watch for shifts in technology. Raritan operates in a fiercely competitive market, and we can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to materials and methods. New developments are always on the horizon, and we have a strong track record of seizing on promising technologies. We were one of the first companies to use plastic piping, one of the first to use ball and butterfly valves. Raritan was at the forefront of valve automation. We opened our own in-house valve automation shop over 40 years ago selling and servicing, electric, pneumatic, and hydraulic actuators for both quarter-turn and muti-turn valves. This stance demands imagination, investment, and a tolerance for risk. Because growth and change have been constants in our history, we are ready for anything. The next eighty years are sure to hold just as many if not more surprises as the last eighty. Raritan will be ready.

Pay attention to customers’ needs. Simply put, Raritan wouldn’t exist without our customers. When they’re successful, when they look good, they become repeat customers. Forming lasting partnerships with them has always mattered more than isolated transactions. For public works and private jobs alike, we prioritize getting to know the people behind the projects. What are their hopes? What keeps them up at night? Besides delivering excellent service—which is a given—how can we earn their enduring trust and add value as partners? Sometimes, trust is built up through casual conversations about dogs, kids, or college football (Go Irish!). Honoring our customers means that every transaction is fair and moral. That’s been the case for eighty years.

Hard work. My father grew up with the Depression and taught his children that while God will always provide, you have got to work for it. Raritan has always been known for the long hours we put in. We load and strap our trucks before dawn, even when it’s freezing outside. Our locations in Edison and Gloucester stay open when the customers need us—weekend and holidays included—and we carry products and sizes that others don’t.

I’m proud to say that Raritan is a New Jersey company, with about 70% of our business coming from the Garden State. It’s a thriving, diverse, dynamic place to live and work, with natural beauty to match its industrial might, and we are committed to supporting local causes that make the community even stronger—and ready for the next eighty years.

– William Richardson, Senior

Pictured: Bill Richardson, Senior works every day with his sidekick, Henry