FriendsOffice: Who We Are and What We Do

We are proud to say that FriendsOffice is one of Ohio’s largest independently owned office suppliers. In 2021, we’ll celebrate 30 years under current management, with the founder of “Friends Office Products” beginning our journey in office supplies back in 1965. Captain Donald Friend probably had no idea his vision for a local office supply store in Wapakoneta, Ohio would become the go-to source for companies and school districts throughout Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana or offer nation-wide delivery.

What we do is simple

Our goal is to provide mutual success to organizations in all vertical markets through the seamless, secure, and speedy supply of everything for any type of workplace. We’re a one-stop-shop, if you will, and we pride ourselves on the “Friends Effect” of our service levels.

What we specialize in

Why count on a Friend

In addition to FREE next-day delivery and industry-leading fill rates, we feel our customers can rely on us to assist in streamlining their supply needs through one purchase order or invoice and across multiple departments. This results in a significant reduction of costs incurred, as anyone in accounting knows well!

Along with traditional office buildings, FriendsOffice also serves large hospitals, healthcare systems, school districts, universities, industrial plants, government buildings and more. While assisting in the uniqueness of every customer and their priorities for things like stocking programs, auto toner replenishment, and bulk ordering, FriendsOffice excels in delivering one-on-one customer attention.

The “Friends Effect” is a company culture and philosophy that garners the positive interaction between employees and our contacts. Putting people before products is something that we feel sets us apart.

Our friendly advantage

We are both a national office supply network, as well as a local, independent business partner. This means the greatest possible selection, the lowest possible price, and you get to work alongside a partner who offers responsive turnaround times and customized programs.

Simply put, FriendsOffice provides customized solutions to help our you do what they do best: run your business. As a single-source leader in the industry, FriendsOffice truly has everything for people at work!

Are you ready for the FriendsOffice Story?

In The BeginningThe 1990s

In 1965, Donald N. Friend of Bloomingburg, Ohio returned as Company Commanding Officer and Veteran of The Second World War. He began a small office supply company called Friends Incorporated in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Friend would continue to run this business until it’s purchase by Ken Schroeder (Company CEO/CFO).

The 1990s

Schroeder formed Evans Business Machines (EBM) on August 8, 1991. The purchase of a copier division from Evans Office Equipment on November 1 of 1991 followed his business supply venture with several partners, including current CIO and co-owner, Dale Alt.

Schroeder officially purchased Friends, Inc., on January 3, 1995, and continued doing business as Friends Office Products with retail locations in Wapakoneta, Lima, and Findlay, Ohio. That same year, the company constructed its warehouse behind its retail location and corporate headquarters in Findlay, Ohio.

Schroeder’s company purchased Imperial Office Supplies, Findlay Computer, Beal’s Office Machines, as well as the office supplies and furniture operations from Wooster Office Plus. By the end of 1999, the company’s sales continued to soar and it was operating six retail stores.  

The Early 2000s

However, Schroeder took note that the retail sales model was falling fast with the inevitable growth of superstores. Therefore, in 2000, all of Friends’ retail locations were closed with the exception of Findlay’s. Friends purchased Advantage Pavilion Group in Toledo with the aspirations to grow the office furniture business.

In 2001, the company purchased ADM, a Toshiba Copier distributor in Toledo. Purchases that year also included a Janitorial company and an IT company.

After some thought, the company noted that it truly offered business solutions and not just office products. So, Friends went on doing business as Friends Business Source.  

In 2005, the company opened up a location and warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. Additionally, eCommerce became the new way to order through Friends in 2006. Keith Lafountain was the IT Manger at the time and remains Friends’ seasoned IT Director to this day. 

In 2008, the economy slipped out from under many companies; Friends was not excluded. However, even during challenging years for the economy, Friends managed to grow 2% that year.

As 2009 began, Friends moved forward with purchases of Toshiba copier companies from Mansfield and Toledo. The company also opened up a Cleveland office that same year, and began gaining market share in the surrounding areas.  That year proved to be a hefty year of change as the Friends school program for grades K-12 developed. Friends’ representatives gained knowledge in school supplies and specialty items, as well as more buying power for such items.

As the company was about to end their 2010 fiscal year, Schroeder decided to exit the dwindling copier business and agreed to join Hicks Office Plus President, John Hicks, in deepening their core business. Centering around supplies for the office and facility, as well as office furniture, promotional products, branded apparel, and school specialty supplies.

Moving Forward

Schroeder has many thoughts on the future of Friends.  “The market is extremely tight but getting creative and going back to the basics of customer service is very important for our survival and our growth. In addition, achieving higher goals allows for the hiring of better skilled managers, handling government mandates effectively, preparedness for the costs to distribute, etc. I believe our success will come a bit more rapidly now, provided we continue to make the right moves.”

The company’s culture of “putting people before products” and supplying “everything for people @ work” seems to have been successful for Friends Business Source and its CEO. The name “Friend” has traveled a long way in office supplies throughout Ohio.

In 2015, Friends Business Source rebranded into FriendsOffice, complete with new a logo and a new website. This is the company that many know and love today through their programs like Office Crashers, the W.R.I.T.E. Grant ProgramFriendsNetwork Lives, and their Facebook presence.

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