Let the Gopher get it

Published 12:00 pm Monday, May 20, 2019

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader

It began with a vision two men had for five distribution centers in one location.

To make it happen, David Jones and David Sandlin sold everything including becoming two families sharing one vehicle.

“At the end of the day, you have to be willing to jump and take the risk,” Jones said. “Entrepreneurs are unique and drive the economy.”

Gopher Industrial, Inc. was open for business in September 2004. A year later, it opened a storefront then Hurricane Rita struck the area.

“We were a web-based business,” Jones said. “After Rita, we had no IT, no phone, no electricity. We temporarily relocated to San Antonio. We were sleeping on cots and worked as much as we could.”

The diversification of a storefront helped local growth for the business to take off.

“We have sold to all 50 states and 12 countries,” Jones said. “Wyoming was the last state to hold out. We had a map where we would pin a location when we made a sale.”

With up to 30 employees, Jones said he looks at his employees as families.

“Over the years, we know the spouses and kids,” Jones said. “On my computer, I have a picture of one of our employee’s daughters to keep me focused as a whole and a reminder of who really matters. We have been on rooftops and deliveries at hospitals together. We are a tight team.”

Together, the company has survived three hurricanes; Rita, Ike and Harvey, a recession, an oil crash and navigated through it all as a stronger and better company.

“With each storm, we gained experience and learned what we could do better in preparation of the next one,” Jones said.

Gopher Industrial, Inc. is the vision of Jones and Sandlin for a model of five distributors in one.

“We specialize in pipes, valves and fittings, welding, hoses, lubricants, and integrated supplies,” Jones said. “Usually one would have to go to six – 10 stores to get everything. We are a supply chain solutions.”

When one walks into the brick and mortar location on State Hwy. 62 in Orange, it is but a small glimpse of what all the location provides for it’s customers.

“Let the Gopher get it,” Jones said.

Jones added it is not all about making a profit as the company also mentors college students and younger children.

“We want to give kids what they need to be a success,” Jones said. “We have three college students who were just promoted in the last 30 days.”

Jones said he always hoped to one day touch a kids life the way a coach had touched his when he was a teenager.

“Indirectly, we have touched many more,” Jones said.

The company has expanded with a satellite location now in Sulphur, Louisiana.

Gopher Industrial would like to open locations in Houston one day.

“The best years are ahead of us,” Jones said. “And it happened right here in Orange. This is also my hobby. I am very passionate about it.”

The company, which started as a web-based company, maintains a website.

“We offer things not in a box,” Jones said. “ We also offer technology, as well as safety and training.”

“In our training center, we educate our staff and educate our client base,” Jones added.

The latest innovation is the GOcrib.

A machine, which at first, appears to be a type of vending machine is much more than meets the eye.

Integrated to the warehouse, it is a tool room and inventory tool.

A person can access it by a computer located in the tool room or elsewhere at a location. First, an item is selected, such as a can of industrial lubricant needed for a project. A ticket is printed and states if it is badge restricted or non-restricted. Go to the GOcrib and the item is issued.

The technology is not limited to the machine but can also access lockers housing tools and equipment needed for a project.

With the link to Gopher Industrial, the inventory can be replenished as needed.

“In the lockers can be the tools for calibrations, cordless drills or laptops,” Jones said. “It provides a leverage technology which improves labor cost for our customer base which makes them more competitive.”

Another example of how the Gopher can get it.

On the industrial level, a hose is not always just a hose. It has to be fabricated to specifics and made to engineer specifications.

Gopher provides that as well.

Fittings must be attached to hoses in a manner to withstand certain specifications based on the intended use and project requirements.

Sometimes, a standard attachment of a fitting is acceptable, and other times it requires strict specifications.

“We take pride in selling the safest hose first,” Jones said. “We refer to it as crimpology. It is an engineer designed specs.”

The equipment needed for such specs was a $100,000 investment for the company.

Another investment was the construction of it’s 400,000 cubic feet Distribution Center.

“We call it the DC,” Jones said. “We have hoses, welding supplies, safety, lubes, mill supplies, pipe valves fittings and other hard to find items.”

They even have brooms.

“We look for people we can move up,” Jones said. “Employees want to go to a place they can grow.”

Many of Gopher’s employees started out at the bottom or in other departments and were moved up through the company.

“With the right person, you can train and have the best team possible,” Jones said. “That is our objective as a company.”

Jones added, “When you look at Orange, we touch the world with the products made here. We touch the world with products and service.”