Gary’s Plumbing and Heating Celebrates 15 Years
This year it is the 15th
birthday of Gary’s plumbing. To help mark the occasion, WhatcomTalk sat down with Mary Gibb, Gary’s wife and the co-owner of the business, to see how they got into Whatcom and built their business, which is what keeps them and their team engaged – and what’s next in store.
The couple met while living in the Denver, Colorado area, but that all changed after Gary paid a visit to Seattle. “A business opportunity brought him here, and it wouldn’t come true,” Mary recalls. “But Gary looked around Seattle and he really liked it.” It was not difficult for him to make the visit permanent. “There is such a need for skilled people, so he was able to find a job in minutes. He worked in Seattle for about nine months while planning the wedding, and he came back to Denver and we got married. “
Once the new couple moved to Seattle, it was a short trip to discover Bellingham, but it worked out in a fairly unusual way. “Gary played lacrosse all through high school and he met a number of people – including many Western alumni – who started a lacrosse team,” said Gibb. “Because a lot of them lived in Bellingham, they had parties and games up there, and Gary liked Bellingham so much more than Seattle.”
The couple have called Bellingham home for the past 32 years and started their family here 23 years ago when Mary gave birth to twins. Gary continued to work for a local plumber during that time, but felt it was time to go out on his own.
They didn’t mean to make their company as big as they do, but Mary and Gary are not complaining. “We started with one truck, and soon the phone rang and rang and rang, because everyone knew how skilled Gary was. People wanted to come and work for Gary, ”says Mary.
Once they hired help, the couple began to take their growth seriously. “We try to do well by our employees, and that translates into that they are doing a great job for the customer. It’s a way of treating people with respect, and it becomes a culture – a team culture and a culture of improvement. “
As their family grew, it made sense to include their children in the business as well. “We’ve always been team-oriented, so the kids always came into the store,” says Mary. Will took courses and needed a job, so he started filling in the store and then running parts, and that position grew for him. Sarah started filling out on phones and she has become really skilled and learning all aspects of the business. “
The family and staff were well looked after and the couple looked beyond the community. “During COVID, a lot of people were concerned, and we started to think about how Gary’s could help. We have developed a program called Gary’s Healthy Home. Customers can get discounts and products such as an air washer that can kill viruses on surfaces, ”says Mary. “People want things that will help them and their families live healthier lives, and we can provide that through this program.”
They also found that another portion of their customers suffered during the pandemic and were concerned about reopening. “It’s bad enough they had to close, but what’s worse is when they try to open again and their pipes are broken or something,” says Mary. “We let many restaurateurs know we were there to support them, and we provided free services because we knew how much pain they were going through. We wanted to help them get them back on their feet. “
A local nonprofit has also long struck a chord with Gary’s crew. Brigadoon Service Dogs
runs a program in which service dogs live with and are trained by detained veterans. “What one thing: you serve your country, you get PTSD, and you make a mistake,” says Mary. But maybe we can return to their original idea of service. By training the dogs, they know they are helping a sibling. We’ve built a supportive relationship over the years, whether that’s helping them with their plumbing and heating, or donating to an auction or volunteering. “
And Gary’s hasn’t finished growing yet. “We have developed a new website that looks really fresh, so we are very excited. There are nice commercials and a podcast is also coming out, so that’s pretty exciting, ”says Gibb. Clearly, Gary’s is committed to continuing to serve their customers as well as their community.