More than a decade ago, two gentlemen shared a cab to the airport from a U.S. fastener show. Although both attended the same event, it was their first time meeting — a random encounter that would lead to what Brighton-Best International (BBI), a master fastener distributor, is today.
One of the men was Robert Shieh, president of Ta Chen International (TCI). In January 2008, he headed a consortium of investors from Taiwan, which bought Brighton-Best Socket Screw Mfg. The other gentleman in the taxi was the VP of Brighton-Best Socket Screw Mfg., George Oshkello.
“When Robert Shieh bought the company is when Brighton-Best truly began to transform,” shares Steve Andrasik, VP of sales with BBI. “At the time, we didn’t even have a website and today, we do more than 80% of our sales online. So, we gained new products and an even greater international and online reach.”
As its name suggests, Brighton-Best Socket Screw Mfg., had been a major supplier of socket screw products in the U.S. and a successful one at that. Its name was also symbolic of its history, which is based on the combination of two fastener companies: Brighton Screw Co. and Best Socket Screw.
Brighton Screw Co. launched as a Cincinnati storefront factory in 1925, primarily manufacturing socket screws and for the military and, eventually, the war effort.
Forty years later, Stan Sevell and Perry Rosenstein founded Best Socket Screw in New York City, which mostly imported fasteners. Both had experience in fastener distribution, and both knew a good business when they saw one. So, in 1971, the two founders purchased the assets of Cincinnati’s Brighton Socket Screw Manufacturing. Socket screws were notoriously difficult to import at the time and this gave the entrepreneurs a manufacturing edge.
“The two companies joined to become Brighton-Best Socket Mfg., and they continued to make socket screws up until the early ’80s when it became obvious that they were a much better importer,” says Andrasik. By then, the quality and cost of the components from overseas were difficult to outmatch.
“The company became a master distributor of socket products almost entirely,” he says. “Sevell and Rosenstein also focused on growing the business extensively. By 1975, they had opened a dozen or so warehouses across the United States, so were in several major cities in the country. The next step was Canada.”
Toronto, Ontario was first, with two other warehouses following suit in Canada. Over the next 20 years, Brighton-Best Socket Screw launched distribution centers in the UK, Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia while continuing to expand in the U.S.
“We’re currently in 31 locations in six countries and supply to more than 7,000 distributors throughout the world,” says Andrasik. “I’ve always enjoyed the history of the company. It’s impressive if you think about it…how two companies became one and then continued to grow and develop so extensively over time. We’re almost 100 years out from that first Cincinnati manufacturer.”
Andrasik credits Perry Rosenstein for much of this initial growth. He remained company president for quite some time after Sevell retired.
“Perry ran the company for many years and really took to the idea of a distribution model, with facilities across the county and several countries,” he says. “He also hired a team that he trusted to run these global facilities in such a successful manner.”
Over time, the friendship also developed between the gentlemen who shared a cab — TCI’s Robert Shieh and Brighton-Best’s VP, George Oshkello, which had soon extended to Perry Rosenstein. As Rosenstein began to contemplate retirement, it made sense to sell the company as part of his distribution model for growth. And TCI was certainly a worthy buyer.
Shieh founded TCI in 1986, which quickly became a dominant supplier of stainless valves, pipes, bars, coils, sheets, and flat plates. The company successfully built-up distribution warehouses in eight U.S. industrial markets, with corporate headquarters in California.
“I think what attracted Robert to our company was the products we sold and how we sold them. For example, we didn’t always sell in large volumes, but we did sell to the majority of the distributors in the market,” Andrasik explains. “So, that’s when the company name changed to Brighton-Best International.” The business has continued to grow since then.
In 2013, BBI acquired the Porteous Fastener Company, which combined the experience of two of the largest fastener master-distributors in the industry. It also expanded BBI’s distribution footprint to 34 locations worldwide.
“That was a great acquisition for us,” he says. “Porteous was a high-grade fastener company that serviced the market just a little bit different than us. It offered low-carbon product lines, such as carriage bolts and lag screws, which allowed us to expand.”
The acquisition also gave BBI access to the construction products market through Porteous’ Proferred and U.S. Anchor divisions. The Proferred brand line of products includes a full line of professional hand tools and safety-related supplies such as gloves, hand wipes, tapes, etc. The U.S. Anchor brand has a 45-year history of quality anchoring products for the construction and industrial applications.
“We’ve kept expanding both lines,” he says. “For U.S. Anchor this has meant attaining all of the necessary certifications.” One example is the company’s Ultrawedge+ wedge anchor, which earned the coveted ICC-ES approval for cracked and un-cracked concrete in Florida and California. The ICC-ES is a subsidiary of the International Code Council (ICC) and serves as an evaluation service (ES).
In 2017, BBI continued to add to its team, acquiring Ironclad Performance Wear. Ironclad was founded in 1998 and manufacturers high-performance specialty gloves for those in construction, engineering, law enforcement, and the military.
“One of the founders of Ironclad and current GM, Eric Jaeger, is still heavily involved in the day-to-day operations, as are many of the original employees from the onboarding with us,” says Andrasik. “That line also continues to expand, which proved important during this pandemic. It had added quite a few personal-protection products, including face masks and nitrile gloves, which sprang from this acquisition, and were very useful.”
Brighton-Best was deemed an essential business and has remained open throughout the pandemic, ensuring no one from its team was let go. Fortunately, part of the company’s value system also supported it throughout this time.
“Brighton-Best’s biggest commitment is, of course, to its customers. This has meant we’ve also always had a strong commitment to our inventory. It’s essential as a distributor and we’ve never stopped buying material or products,” he shares. “So, while everyone’s been dealing with supply-chain issues, we’ve continued to maintain a strong inventory base and we’ve simply kept pushing through any challenges.”
Despite any adverse economic effects from the pandemic, the fastener industry has shown little signs of slowing down, particularly as construction and manufacturing ramp up again. And neither is BBI.
“I’ve been in this industry for more than 40 years now, and I’ve honestly never seen business like this. It’s clear that there are holes to fill or gaps in components that are needed, whether that’s from supply chain delays or new project approvals or what have you,” says Andrasik.
The company recently announced yet another acquisition, further expanding its offering. Vertex Distribution is a one-source provider of corrosion-resistant fasteners, offering a full line of metric fasteners in stainless steel, as well as rivets and hose clamps.
“We’re keeping up with the investment in expansion, which is great. It gives us the ability to offer our customers a more extensive inventory base of quality products, ensuring we have what they need,” he says.
After all, expansion is how the history of Brighton-Best evolved and how the company became a multi-national business.
“It’s been said that the fastener business isn’t a sexy industry,” says Andrasik. “But the fastener industry is an important one and a good one to work in. Most notably, it’s full of great people and that’s one of the keys to a great business,” says Andrasik. “Under the leadership of Peggy Hsieh, COO, and Jun Xu, president, I’ve been very fortunate to spend most of my career here.”