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Ray Murray Inc. is one of the largest distributors of gas equipment in the United States, servicing a territory from Maine to North Carolina and west to Ohio.
The family-owned business, started by Ray Murray Sr. in 1973, has five main product groups: propane equipment; heat, hearth and outdoor living products; plant and industrial equipment; scuba equipment; and compressed gas equipment. The bulk of its business is in the propane industry.
The company has about 85 employees with offices, warehouses and shipping facilities in Lee, Mass., and Bensalem, Pa. The senior Murray continues to oversee company operations along with his three sons - James, vice president and general manager; Ray Jr., vice president of sales, and John, general manager of the Bensalem, Pa., office.
Although company officials won't disclose specific sales data, the Massachusetts-based company broke ground in the spring on a new 83,000-square foot office and warehouse headquarters.
Bob Rosenbaum and Jack Tarantin serve as product managers for the company's Heating and Outdoor Living Group. Despite three consecutive mild winters, the industry veterans report that equipment sales have continued to climb due in large part to a healthy economy and interest in the wide range of hearth products. And based on summer orders to date, they say there is good reason to be upbeat about the upcoming heating season.
LP/Gas Editor Patrick Hyland recently asked Rosenbaum and Tarantin to examine the state of the heating equipment industry and project what the upcoming heating season may have in store.
How have heating equipment sales overall been the last few years?
TARANTIN: Overall, heating equipment sales have been very steady and increasing. Last year, we felt the Y2k situation provided a sales spike. So last fall's sales were climbing throughout the season. The mix of products that Ray Murray is selling has enabled us to minimize effects such as weather. The product line has expanded to meet the needs of our customers, and that has enabled us to continue our sales in an upward trend.
ROSENBAUM: Our customers have started doing some marketing; they are …