A Force in Grooming
David Stern, vice president of marketing for Metropolitan Vacuum Cleaner Co., discusses how the company his grandfather founded nearly 75 years ago has spent the past three decades revolutionizing the grooming industry.
Grooming Business: Founded in 1939, MetroVac expanded into pet grooming in the 1980s. What inspired the move?
David Stern: When I joined the company, we were manufacturing a lawn and garden blower called AIR FORCE, and we had determined that it was being used to by some consumers to groom—of all things—pygmy goats, and, of course, to dry pets. I began to look into the market and discovered that there was a huge opportunity to provide dog dryers to the industry at a substantially lower cost than what was available. We introduced the line in 1984, and it was the lowest-priced dryer on the market, providing the same performance as the higher-priced units available. The launch was explosive and sales took off immediately.
GB: How has the move into the grooming market played out for MetroVac?
Stern: Our Air Force division has been a significant part of our growth over the last 30 years. We’ve expanded the line and continue to introduce new models, and now we ship around the world. Initially, our primary market for AIR FORCE dryers were dog groomers, kennel operators, breeders and dog show participants. Then our dryers started to penetrate the home-grooming market, which has phenomenal potential, considering the fact that 57 percent of dog owners groom at home, but only seven percent own a pet dryer. In addition, due to a rise in household expenses, it is estimated that the percentage of pet owners home grooming will rise significantly by the end of 2014.
GB: What separates MetroVac products from the competition?
Stern: There are cheap pet dryers now being imported and distributed into the industry. They cost less to purchase initially, but people should not be fooled by cheap knock-offs. Cheap is expensive! These dryers won’t last as long as ours and, in many cases, cannot be repaired when they break down. We have been manufacturing products right here in the USA since 1939. We offer tremendous performance and superior durability. METROVAC offers outstanding customer support to both our resellers and ultimate consumers, along with prompt courteous detail-oriented answers to questions and issues that arise. As my grandfather, Israel Stern, used to say,“Don’t make problems, solve them.” That statement has been part of our mantra since the beginning.
GB: Earlier this year, MetroVac moved into a new headquarters facility. What benefits did the move provide?
Stern: We had been in the old building since 1968, and we had basically outgrown it years ago. The old building consisted of three levels, so it was not the epitome of efficiency—although, thankfully, it suited us for many years.
Our new building is 50,000 square feet, all on one level. Fortunately, our general manager is ex U.S. Air Force (very detail oriented) and laid out the new manufacturing facility and processes on huge graph paper, from soup to nuts, prior to moving day. Every painstaking detail was analyzed and reanalyzed, and the result is that our new facility is optimally efficient.
GB: What are some of the newest additions to MetroVac’s product lineup?
Stern: We have been introducing variable-control dryers; groomers and dog owners love them. For instance, the new variable control MASTER BLASTER enables groomers to have infinite control to dry all dogs, big and small, long and short haired.
GB: What does the future hold for MetroVac in the pet grooming industry?
Stern: We will listen closely to our customers and the ultimate consumer, and introduce the products they’re looking for. We will continue to manufacture our products in the USA, with the highest-quality components available. We intend to continue that tradition of quality, value and customer service that my grandparents established as cornerstones of our company philosophy.