In 2010, Todd Ricketts donned a pair of fake glasses, grew a beard and temporarily shed his identity as a member of the family that owned Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs. Posing as a maintenance worker for the TV show “Undercover Boss,” Ricketts picked up trash, worked on the grounds crew and sold hot dogs at the ballpark. Clearly not ready for the major leagues of maintenance, Rickett was fired for, among other incompetencies, spilling a bunch of cleaning products made by Chemcraft’s longest lasting partner, Nyco.
Chemcraft’s President, Marty Munvez, connected Nyco with the Emmy-winning reality series, and Nyco CEO Bob Stahurski Jr. watched the episode air from a trade show floor with his team. “That was a lot of fun,” he remembers, sharing the first of many Chemcraft stories he’s collected through our multi-decade partnership.
The Partnership Begins
Bob remembers when the partnership with Chemcraft began: In the 60s, Nyco private-labeled two toilet bowl cleaners for Chemcraft, Toilaid and Bowl-Tek. They also made an all-purpose cleaner called Neo-Concentrate and a butyl-based degreaser called Neo-Solve. Bob’s father originally called on Chemcraft in the 70s until Bob became involved in the business. Over time, the relationship expanded, and Nyco manufactured and branded all of Chemcraft’s private label chemical offerings. That included floor finishes, strippers, cleaners, disinfectants, and hand soap.
Besides providing distribution for Nyco products, Chemcraft’s President Leo Munvez also offered a few life lessons. There’s one in particular Bob has never forgotten: In the 70s, he was a graphic designer and actually helped create Chemcraft’s logo. After printing letterhead, Bob sent Leo a bill that included sales tax. He got a phone call shortly after. “Leo gave me a schooling on how I could charge sales tax on the paper but not on the printing service,” Bob recalls, adding “It was one of those early life lessons you can never forget.”
His first sales call ever in the field was at Chemcraft, where he met Marty and his brother Ronnie. What started that day as a business relationship blossomed into a friendship. “773-929-6800,” Bob exclaims. “Who else remembers their customer phone numbers like that? That’s how long we’ve been doing business with Chemcraft. We’ve been through area code changes, business changes and family changes. We’re there to help each other out. If Marty needed something, I’d help out in a heartbeat. The answer is always yes, and I know it goes both ways.”
That relationship really came into play during the COVID pandemic. Nyco’s Sani Spritz disinfectant was flying off shelves. “We were more popular than the prom queen,” Bob says, “but when Marty called and said I need some Sani Spritz, I said how much?”
Another person Marty could always call is Dick Freund. Before joining the Chemcraft team himself, Dick owned a distributorship called AZ Supply. “If Marty didn’t have something, he’d pick up the phone and call AZ Supply to pick it up,” Bob says, pointing out how competitors used to be a good support system for each other too. Playing on the name of AZ Supply, Marty and Bob could name a distributor for every letter of the alphabet. C always stood for Chemcraft, and according to Bob, Chemcraft is “one of the lone survivors of that alphabet.”
Going the Extra Mile
It’s the relationships that have enabled Chemcraft to survive and thrive for 75 years when so many others have failed. “Chemcraft is specialized in the relationship sell,” explains Bob. “They are very good at it. They’re the company that goes the extra mile for the customer. They make the late night calls,” he says, adding that he and Marty have been to facilities at 11 o’clock at night to take a look at their floor care or providing trainings to make sure staff could use products safely and effectively. “That’s so different from the point, click and buy transactional model,” he says.
A couple of years ago while playing golf with Marty and Dick, Bob was struck by their history together. “I looked around and thought ‘my God, we’re old,’ he laughs, then adds “But then I thought about how amazing it is that we’ve had this 40-plus year relationship with each other and have all been through so many different things. That’s the beauty of this business. You get to do it with your friends. That’s what’s been such a unique thing about Chemcraft.”
Looking toward the future, Bob knows that the Nyco-Chemcraft partnership will only continue to grow. “Watching Michelle come in and be active and involved is really special,” he says, talking about Chemcraft Vice President Michelle Munvez. And looking (hopefully!) much further down the road, Bob adds this: “When we are all sitting in the nursing homes one day, we’ll take with us the relationships with the people we really enjoy doing business with. Marty and his whole family are at the top of the list for us.”