Janesville73°

CB&K Supply closes its doors

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JAMES P. LEUTE
June 2, 2010
— After more than 100 years in Janesville, a wholesale supplier of plumbing and industrial materials has closed.

A company spokeswoman confirmed CB&K Supply closed its operations in Janesville and Freeport, Ill., on Friday, a day after closing its Madison branch.


The closing put 22 people out of work.


In 2007, CB&K moved from its headquarters on North Parker Drive in downtown Janesville to a centralized building leased from Hendricks Development Group on Whitney Street.


Like other building material companies, CB&K Supply was hit hard in 2009 by the economic downturn and declines in housing starts. The company laid off some workers in early 2009, but brought several of them back after an outside consultant developed a plan to weather the economic storm.


The company spokeswoman said a significant factor in the company’s closures was a number of contractors who wouldn’t pay their bills from CB&K. She said 20 to 30 contractors owe CB&K varying amounts but haven’t paid despite a variety of collection attempts.


Failure to collect, she said, severely hindered the company’s cash flow.


CB&K traces its root to five brothers who emigrated from Russia around the turn of the 20th century. When they arrived at Ellis Island in New York to become U.S. residents, immigration authorities named several of the brothers Cohen and the others Katz. Seeking a fresh start in their lives and new business opportunities, the brothers moved to Janesville, where they started a scrap recycling company.


The brothers began reprocessing iron, steel, aluminum, glass, burlap, cardboard and other products in the early 1900s.


Business records dating back to 1905 make CB&K Supply one of Janesville’s oldest family-owned businesses. In 1928 the company was incorporated as Cohen Brothers & Katz.


As Janesville grew, the demand for industrial materials increased. Customers asked Cohen Brothers & Katz to carry steel, plumbing and industrial products. As a result, the company changed its focus from recycling to wholesale supply.


Starting in the plumbing field in the 1940s and evolving thru the 1950s, the company made the transition to wholesale supply in the 1960s and changed its name to CB&K Supply.


CB&K opened a branch in Madison and followed four years later with a branch in Freeport, Ill.



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