Fred Martinis opened a small cleaning supply store in downtown Kalamazoo, known as Kalamazoo Sanitary Supply Company in 1945. By 1961, the company was purchased by Dwight Stocker. In 1974, Ralph Claxton, a sales representative who had been with the company for nine years, purchased the company and focused on building a solid customer base by promoting products, service and education for the next 13 years and was supported by an inside staff of 3.
In 1987, the Hill Family purchases Kalamazoo Sanitary Supply with Tom Hill Jr as President, Tom Hill Sr. as Vice President, and Terry (Hill) Dawson as General Manager. Ralph Claxton continues on as a sales consultant. As a new woman owned business, it expands to 8 employees and installs the first computer. In 1988, the business grew to ten employees and moved to a larger location to fit the needs of the growth with an expanded showroom, parking, office and warehouse space. This is the current location on 616 East Vine Street. By 1994, Kalamazoo Sanitary Supply changed its name to KSS Enterprises to better represent the business as much more than a supply company. The sales territory was also extended to Fort Wayne, IN and the staff grows to 28 employees. KSS expands its services to the Grand Rapids, northern Michigan and Northern Indiana areas in 1995 when we became a Hillyard Floor Care distributor. Also in 1995, KSS celebrated it’s 50th anniversary with a growing staff and additional improvements like inventory management, just in time delivery, and expanded factory-authorized service and repair department.
The first branch location opened in Jackson, Michigan in 1997, when KSS purchased a janitorial distributor, Chuck’s supply. In 1999, the Kalamazoo warehouse was expanded by 7,500 feet to modernize with new loading docks and mezzanine area. We also added a new sales division specializing in Grocery Store Sanitation programs and products. The second branch location was added in 2000 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, along with a second location for our service department. This allowed us to reach the market better and increased our team by six employees, including a full time service department coordinator. We opened a new facility in South Bend, IN in 2002, adding 3 new team members and allowing us to continue reaching out to the market. This same year, the Grand Rapids facility was moved to a better location for customer access from the expressway and was also expanded.
KSS purchased Musio Janitorial in Petoskey, Michigan in 2005, opening it’s fifth location which allowed for a broader service area and product lines. KSS acquired the Ware Wash Division of Stafford-Smith in 2006, which increased our customer base and product line.
In 2009, the South Bend location was moved to a more modern building with additional space for the showroom. We also added additional sales reps to the Detroit market in this year. The Grand Rapids branch moved to a new state-of-the-art facility in 2011 which provided an expanded showroom, service and repair departments, and large training facility. Our new training facility gives us the opportunity to host many community events for the local Chamber of Commerce groups, LinkedUp Grand Rapids, and many more!
In 2013, KSS expanded into the Detroit market physically with a branch in Plymouth, Michigan. The branch contains a large 23,000 sq. ft. showroom, training facility, and service department. Our increased service areas allowed us to expand our annual expos in June to three locations, 2 in Michigan and 1 in Indiana. This state-of -the-art training is just one example of KSS commitment to its customers and vendor partners built on our tradition of quality, dependability, and service. In 2015, KSS celebrated the 70th anniversary of serving the Great Lakes Region as a premier distributor of facility supplies and equipment. This milestone was significant to achieve and only made possible by the support of customers, vendors, team members and community partners.
In 2016, KSS relocated their corporate headquarters in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The new state-of-the-art facility offers a greatly expanded showroom, two training facilities, a larger service department, and increased storage for inventory. Continuing what began in Kalamazoo in 1945, the KSS team is committed to helping our customers have safe and healthy facilities while helping to reduce the overall cost to clean.