To celebrate its 60th year in business, Bill’s Plumbing & Sanikan is hosting a party for the public from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, April 12, at 425 S. Third Ave., Sequim.
To thank its many loyal customers and welcome new ones, there will be a barbecue lunch with dessert from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Throughout the day there will be vendor demonstrations, a surplus sale and door prizes.
Judy Kimler, daughter of the original “Bill” in Bill’s Plumbing, co-owns the business with her mother and his widow Ann Kimler. Bill, originally from Pennsylvania, served in the Navy as a pipefitter and as a young couple they settled in Sequim, Ann’s hometown. Their small plumbing business was established in 1959 on Cedar Street, moving to Bell Street in 1962 and finally to the South Third Avenue property, a former railroad yard, in the 1970s.
For many years the business included usual plumbing jobs, plumbing repair, septic system maintenance and well drilling. Eventually it became solely a retail concern, selling professional-grade plumbing fixtures and faucets in its showroom.
“Our professional-grade fixtures are different from those at big box stores,” Judy advised.
“At the Bell Street shop we started having portable toilets,” said manager Karen Lewis, who’s worked for Bill’s Plumbing for 30 years.
“The Sanikan rentals have grown hugely. We began with 20 metal ones and now we have over 700 (plastic). We have a crew of four service technicians and foreman Joe Coon makes everything go smoothly — in the right direction. Our motto is “Giving you a place to go since 1959.’”
They even have a two-seater in a trailer that is a must-have for outdoor weddings.
Bill died in 1995 and some thought the business would die with him but Judy and Ann, with the help of devoted employees, have continued its success. Also assisting customers in the showroom is Nancy Coon, another longtime employee.
“How has the business changed? The town has grown yet we’re still the only mom and pop plumbing business in Sequim even with the growth. Dad’s favorite part was working with people to help them fix things,” Judy said.
“The products have changed a lot — people are looking for aging in place fixtures, toilets have all gone to tall toilets and water conservation has really changed the industry — everything is low-flow,” she said.
Fixtures are going high-tech, too. Likely next year, Lewis said, homeowners with cutting-edge fixtures will be able to give toilet and shower function commands to Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant.
“And Alexa will recognize my voice versus my husband’s voice,” Lewis said.
Fixtures include toilets, sinks, showers, bathtubs and water heaters, standard or on-demand, electric or propane. Faucets can be plain or stylish in numerous finishes for the kitchen, bathroom, shower and laundry.
“We do sell American Standard walk-in tubs because they’re very popular, especially for aging in place bathrooms,” Judy said, noting that there are many extras such as the number of jets and lights.
The store also sells bidet toilet seats, again as an aging in place benefit to help people stay independent in their daily process, Lewis said.
Even with their large inventory, there’s one thing that customers won’t find on the shelves — and it may be priceless.
“In all the years we’ve been here, we still offer small-town customer service,” Judy said, “and we specialize in advice on the phone. People call us on how to approach a problem they have before they call in somebody and we tell them what to do first. We all pitch in and wear a lot of hats.”
“One thing people really stress is that they come to us because of our knowledge — they trust us,” Lewis said. “We ask them what they have now, what they do or don’t like, what their needs are. We really try to get what they want because there are so many choices.”