Central Welding Supply: A History of Service
Central Welding Supply is owned and operated by the Wilton Family, with Dale Wilton, CEO, and Mickey Wilton, Founder.
Central Welding Supply has built its success on the Quality Service and Support we offer to each customer. What started as a small single-location family business in 1975 has grown to 22 retail locations in Western Washington, Oregon and Alaska. The managers and sales staff from each location combine decades of expert experience working with the full spectrum of industrial applications.
The Central Welding Story…
Central Welding Supply was born in a very small building in Lynnwood, Washington in 1975. Much like many other small start-up businesses, it was started on mostly guts and determination, and with what at the time was a substantial initial investment of $10,000.00, requiring the initial partners to put up nearly everything they owned as collateral for rent, overhead, and inventory.
It was a risky venture for a then 32 year old Mickey Wilton who, with his wife Diane, had just settled into a comfortable life as a new family with a 3 year old son in Everett, Washington.
Though it would be easy to say he and his partner simply awoke one day and decided to open a new business it wouldn’t tell the entire story…
In the early 70’s Mickey returned from serving his country in Vietnam, and also returned to his job at Adams Welding Supply. Adams Welding Supply was a family-owned company based in Everett, Washington, operated by Carl Adams, a veteran of the welding supply and gases business. Mr. Adams was a humble, caring man who took great pride in his work, his company, and his staff, all of whom he treated like family. As is the story with many businesses, however, shortly after Mick’s return Mr. Adams decided to sell his store to a larger Seattle-based company.
Difficulties with new management and the loss of the tight-knit family feel of the new company drove Mickey and his partner to strike out on their own and create their own business, based largely on the skills, business philosophies, and mentoring they received at Adams Welding Supply, and from Carl Adams directly.
In 1975 the Puget Sound Region and the greater Seattle area, as could be imagined, was far more sparsely populated than it is today. Most industrial suppliers of the era were based either in the industrial core of Seattle or in the aging mill town of Everett with few services or suppliers in-between. Mickey and his partner believed that the growing area south of Paine Field (and the Everett Boeing manufacturing facilities) and north of Ballard and the marine trade of Seattle, could potentially support a full service welding supply and industrial gases store.
They found and rented a very small building on heavily-traveled Highway 99 at 208th Street in Lynnwood, Washington and gave their company a simple name based on it being located centrally in-between Seattle and Everett: Central Welding Supply. Though the showroom floor was little more than a sales counter and a small office, and the “yard” was no more than a 10 ft by 10 ft cylinder exchange dock, with a little paint and a lot of hard work they opened for business.
Few start-up companies survive even the first month of business, but Central Welding Supply’s first month of business was a success. Their concept of providing better customer service and a more convenient location proved a simple but winning formula. Despite no direct manufacturer product lines and competitors eager to add them to the list of failed ventures, Central Welding Supply tallied first-month sales of over $20,000.00 and never looked back.
The next eight years were filled with marked growth and expansion. The little 208th Street location that served the first years so well was quickly rendered inadequate, and in 1977 a new much larger building at 202nd Street off of Highway 99 became the new home. 1980 saw the launch of a second store, based across town from the old Adams Welding Supply in Everett Washington, and 1983 the company made its first acquisition – Skagit Valley Welding Supply located in downtown Burlington, Washington.
The mid to late ’80s were spent growing and developing business between north Seattle and the Skagit Valley, and allowed the company and management time to acclimate new computer technology and find ways to better manage the stores as one company. This was also the beginning of consolidation of the welding supply and gases businesses throughout the country by major corporations. Great regional suppliers such as Welders Supply Company, Northwest Welding Supply, Industrial Welding Supply, and others were slowly but systematically being acquired and consolidated.
In 1990 Mickey Wilton became the sole owner of Central Welding Supply, choosing to buy out his partner’s shares rather than sell the entire company to a large multinational corporation whom had been aggressively bidding to purchase the operation. His drive to continue to grow and cultivate a family atmosphere as he had experienced at Adams Welding Supply and his belief that a locally-owned welding supply would provide better service to local customers made keeping Central Welding Supply together an easy choice.
The years following that 1990 buy-out have been marked by consistent growth. Thanks to a veteran and dedicated team of managers, sales staff, office and support staff, delivery drivers, warehouse, and fill plant staff Central Welding Supply experienced an average 12% growth rate over most of the decade between 1994 and 2004: In 1994 Ark Welding Supplies of Ballard, Washington was added to the family. In 1995 the Bellingham, Washington location was opened. 1997 saw the acquisition of Issaquah Welding Supply based in Issaquah, Washington and in 1999 a South Seattle branch was opened on 4th Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. Central Welding Supply acquired the Bellingham branch of Air Liquide Corporation in 2001 and integrated it with the existing CWS Bellingham operation and 2003 saw the purchase of the welding supply portion of Key Electric, based in Port Townsend, Washington, which launched service to Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Sequim and the greater Olympic Peninsula.
Also in 2003 the company launched two new wholly-owned divisions of Central Welding Supply – The Xpress Cryogenics division, based in Seattle, Washington serving cryogenic bulk and specialty gas customers, and Welders-Direct, an internet sales division devoted to providing welding equipment to home-hobbyists and small businesses throughout the United States.
Central Welding Supply reached its 30th year in 2005, and continued it’s careful growth in the region: In September 2005, Central Welding added its 9th location in Woodinville, WA. Then in August 2006, construction of our 10th location, a new facility in Marysville, WA, was completed, serving as Central Welding Supply’s new Corporate Offices, Cylinder Fill Plant, and Distribution Facility. The 2 acre site allowed for continued expansion into both new markets and new products.
Central Welding Supply reached its 30th year in 2005, and continued its careful growth in the region over the next four years: In September 2005, Central Welding added its 9th location in Woodinville, WA. Then in August 2006, construction of a 10th location, a new facility in Marysville, WA, was completed, serving as Central Welding Supply’s new Corporate Offices, Cylinder Fill Plant, and Distribution Facility.
The 2 acre site allowed for continued expansion into both new markets and new products. In October 2007 Central Welding Supply launched its 11th location by acquiring D & B Welding Supply of Renton, WA. – D & B had been serving the region as a family-owned business since 1965, and helped Central Welding Supply better serve its new and existing customers in the Kent Valley.
2008 saw the opening of a full 5700 sq ft retail store in Smokey Point, WA. The new facility, located across the street from the Central Welding Supply Fill Plant and Corporate Offices, enhanced deliveries and customer service to the ever growing and expanding North Snohomish County region.
In June of 2009 Central Welding Supply acquired Compressed Gas Western Inc of Seattle WA, which had a proud 35+ history of service in this region. Central Welding integrated that operation into its Seattle location, operating as a new Beverage Gases Division of Central Welding Supply. The new Beverage Gases Division provided a unique service focused solely on providing beverage gas service to brew pubs, bars, restaurants, and other food service businesses in the greater Seattle metropolitan region. That same summer also saw the opening of the Redmond branch of Central Welding Supply (July 2009), positioned to provide more responsive delivery service to the growing Redmond/Kirkland region.
The final months of 2009 and early 2010 began the biggest 12 month growth spurt in Central history. In December 2009 Central Welding Supply purchased Pacific Welding Supplies LLC from the Fox family, bringing with it an additional 5 locations, 70 employees, and another nearly $20M in annual revenues. Pacific Welding Supplies LLC locations in Tacoma, Auburn, Olympia, Bremerton and Chehalis continue to operate under the Pacific name, as a Division of Central Welding Supply’s family of companies, and effectively spread Central’s reach from the Vancouver BC market south to the Centralia/Chehalis area. Only 30 days after the Pacific acquisition the Company acquired A-L Welding Products of Tukwila, WA, operating as a branch of Central Welding Supply. This acquisition was the catalyst for the launch of a new division, Central Medical Gases, located in that same Tukwila facility. Both the industrial gases & welding supply store, as well as the new Medical Gases Division, allowed Central to expand into a number of new markets and offer additional products and services to its existing customer base throughout the Puget Sound, and through both the Central and Pacific operating companies. By the end of Central’s 2010 fiscal year the company had grown to over $45M in annual revenues, in what was without a doubt the worst part of the Great Recession in the Pacific Northwest.
The momentum continued deep into 2010, when Central opened a new location in Anacortes, WA in west Skagit County. The Anacortes branch improved service to Fidalgo Island and west Skagit County industrial areas and regional petroleum refineries, and provided for better support and delivery logistics to Whidbey Island customers. The summer of 2010 saw the launch of Central Welding Supply’s Safety Division. In addition to occupational safety products, the safety division offers online resources for safety management and training, and October of that same year saw an expansion of services with the acquisition of Precision Welder & Engine Repair, to offer factory trained and certified repair technicians for the quality repair of all makes and models of welding equipment and standard accessories. In addition, a construction project was begun of a new retail facility for the Pacific Welding Supplies location in Bremerton, WA. To finish off the year, on December 30, 2010, the acquisition of Everett Carbonic was effective – expanding Central Welding Supply’s Beverage Gases Division delivery territory in the Puget Sound area, and bringing Central to over $1M annually in beverage gases through the new “Central Beverage Gases Division.”
Though 2011, 2012 and 2013 saw no acquisitions or new store openings, Central averaged organic growth through existing operations of nearly 12% per year, pushing annual revenues over the $60M mark by the summer of 2012. By the summer of 2013 that number exceeded $63M.
In early 2014 came the announcement of two new Central locations, in Kelso, WA and Vancouver WA, that opened in February and March respectively, expanding Central’s reach to the Longview/Kelso and Portland/Vancouver markets in Southwest Washington, completing the Central Welding Supply service-area footprint to include all of Western Washington from the U.S. / Canadian border to the Washington/Oregon border – the I-5 Corridor from Vancouver to Vancouver. Additionally, the Pacific Welding Supplies Olympia location completed a move to a new wholey-owned facility just blocks from the original site at 8001 Martin Way East. The new store offers better access, more parking, a larger yard, and larger retail area, effectively quadrupling the square footage of the original site.
Expansion to Oregon in 2016 and Alaska in 2017
On September 6, 2016, Central Welding Supply announced the acquisition of United Welding Supplies Inc, located in Portland, OR. The new business represented Central Welding Supply’s first location in Oregon State. The new Portland location will extend service to a growing number of businesses served previously through Central’s Vancouver, WA branch.
Demand and opportunity motivated northern expansion. The company had served customers in Alaska for many years through regular shipments to Central Alaska, SE Alaska, Kodiak, and the Aleutian Island chain. On February 1, 2017, Central Welding Supply announced a new location opening in Wasilla, Alaska. Central Welding Supply completed build out of its Wasilla retail store, warehouse, offices and cylinder storage yard in January 2017. The new location opened February 27, 2017, supporting retail sales for walk-in customers, and also serving as a central point for distribution throughout the Mat-Su Valley.
Today, the Central Welding Supply family of companies has grown to 22 retail locations, multiple divisions, over 270 dedicated employees, and over $80M in annual revenues regionally.
Though the company has grown from one small store to a much larger regional distributor, Central Welding Supply has stayed true to its initial objective: Provide the region’s most responsive customer service along with convenient locations and the best products, while holding on to the core values and traditions of a family-owned, family-run, local business.
Currently Central Welding Supply is owned and operated by the Wilton Family, with Dale Wilton, CEO, and Mickey Wilton, Founder.
Central Welding Supply retail locations include Anacortes, WA, Ballard, WA, Bellingham, WA, Burlington, WA, Everett, WA, Lynnwood, WA, Port Townsend, WA, Redmond, WA, Renton, WA, Seattle, WA, Smokey Point, WA, Woodinville, WA, Tukwila, WA, Kelso, WA, Vancouver, WA, Portland, OR, and now Wasilla, AK.
Wholly-owned subsidiary, Pacific Welding Supplies, operates five locations including: Auburn, WA, Bremerton, WA, Chehalis, WA, Olympia, and Tacoma, WA, as well as the Rental Center in Auburn, WA and a Cylinder Distribution Center in Tacoma, WA.