Solid reputation helps Jay's Big Rolls clean up
JANESVILLE — Jayson Duffy has come a long way since the days of taking orders in his dorm room and fetching product from a neighbor's garage.
Today, Duffy has an office just off a reception area and retail showroom for Jay's Big Rolls, 2609 Center Ave., Janesville. Just beyond are two warehouses packed with all things janitorial.
"People need stuff now, and that's what we do," Duffy said of the company he started in 1987 as a junior at Milton High School.
Jay's is a discount provider of paper and janitorial products. It delivers supplies and chemicals to a long list of customers—big and small—within 45 minutes of the Janesville area. He also ships orders across the country.
Duffy started his business after his father noticed that many of the businesses to which he sold auto parts also had a need for big rolls of disposable paper towels.
Jay's "big roll" was born.
"I thought it was maybe something I could go out and peddle after school," Duffy said. "I stored the product first in my parents' garage, then a neighbor's garage.
"When I went to UW-Whitewater, I'd get sales calls in my dorm room and then go home on Fridays to make deliveries."
His college classes were test labs for his business.
"It really helped in school to have my own business," he said. "It was sometimes hard to concentrate because I was thinking so much about my own business."
Duffy graduated in 1992 with a degree in marketing and set out to expand the business, which he now runs with his wife. He rented commercial space for storage and made his rounds in a 1977 Chevy van.
He bought the shell of a building on Center Avenue in 2002 and has grown the business into one that stocks as many as 400 items and has access to another 25,000 products from broom, chemical, packaging, paper and chemical suppliers.
The company and its five employees service area factories, schools, banks, municipalities, churches, day cares center and auto repair shops.
"Our focus is on customer service," Duffy said. "When someone needs something right away, they get it at a fair price. We don't mark something up to $100 just so I can cut it to $50 and tell someone they're getting a deal."
Most of Duffy's business, which has grown 45 percent in the last five years, is local. Many of the companies he serviced as a high school and college student are still solid customers. He attributes that to an honest reputation that's spread through word of mouth.
The recession helped his business as companies sought ways to save money on supplies they need every day.
"People need stuff now, and they need it at a fair price," Duffy said. "We've got the stuff they need, and we get it to them quickly.
"I'm not looking to be a $10 million company. We've built a lot of good relationships over the years, and those are helping us keep pretty good control on our growth."