ESSCO appoints Tom Bianco as CEO

With more than 3,000 dealers already in the bag, vacuum wholesaler ESSCO aims to expand its footprint, client base for… A CLEAN SWEEP

Tom Bianco says he’s taken no shortage of ribbing about his new position from friends, who ask Why he became a vacuum cleaner salesman at this stage of his career or observe that the job he took last month must suck. But the president and CEO of Electrical Sweeper Service Co., a wholesale distributor of vacuum cleaners and parts, can take the goodnatured kidding in stride because he’s enjoying himself as he begins to pursue initiatives he believes will enable the 83-year-old company, better known as ESSCO, to clean up in its market.

“I thought this was just a sleepy industry, but I’ve learned a lot in four weeks,” said Mr. Bianco. who entered the vacuum cleaner business after serving more than seven years as chairman and CEO of AtomicBox Logistics Inc., a provider of global logistics services in Aurora. Mr. Bianco will be drawing on his logistics know how as he embarks on a strategy to push ESSCO’s name beyond the core group of 3,200 independent vacuum dealers it now serves.

To do so, Mr. Bianco plans to beef up ESSCO’s 2 year old website so that it will be more attractive to potential customers. ESSCO plans to offer more products online including pet supply retailers and janitorial outfits.

The 40-employee company, which does the bulk of its business in the East and Midwest, also wants to expand its reach west of the Mississippi, Mr. Bianco said.

ESSCO plans in the next year to expand its headquarters on Hub Parkway in Valley View to 45,000 square feet from 30,000 square feet. Some of the added space will be used for an outbound call center that will enable ESSCO to target a broader base of potential customers, Mr. Bianco said.

Last September, ESSCO acquired the assets of Cincinnati-based Cirrus trading Ltd., a maker of Cirrus brand vacuum cleaners. Mr, Bianco said the Cirrus, which is mainly sold in the Midwest, will be distributed in the West, using the call center to boost sales.

Job lead from a friend

ESSCO is owned by MCM Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in Beachwood that acquired the company two years ago. The previous owners were the husband and wife team of Robert and Bunnie Merckle, the former of whom Mr. Bianco succeeded as president.

Mr. Bianco’s former employer, AtomicBox, was bought last year by integrated logistics firm CaseStack Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif. Mr. Bianco said the plan at the time was for him to remain on board with AlomicBox for a year during the transition phase. However, after that year, he needed a job.

It was through friend Dennis Docherty, CEO of another MCM portfolio company, circuit board manufacturer Inservco inc. in LaGrange that Mr. Bianco learned about the vacancy at ESSCO.

Mr. Bianco said he was most impressed with ESSCO’s strong market position. Among 10,000 independent vacuum dealers nationwide, ESSCO has about a third of that market. The idea is to grab more.

A private company, ESSCO doesn’t disclose its sales, but Mr. Bianco said he expects that figure to increase 50% in the next two years.

Recession-proof business

Terry Finger, marketing manager for ESSCO, said constant changes in technology help keep the shelves within ESSCO’s Valley View warehouse brimming. Vacuum bags have given way to customized filters, for example, and there seems to be more moving parts than ever.

The company carries more than 12,000 replacement parts and accessories for most vacuum brands, including Northeast Ohio’s originals Royal Appliance, Kirby and Hoover.

Mr. Finger said with more models coming to market to battle allergens, pet dander and dust mites, he expects ESSCO’s shelves to be full for a long time.

“You might not know, but surprisingly, this industry is recession-proof,” he said.