Potts Plumbing Parts in Alhambra to shut doors after 76 years of business

ALHAMBRA >> Potts Plumbing Parts, where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came, will shut its doors for the final time on June 30.

Longtime customers like Byron Lewis, a high-ranking plumber for Alhambra Unified School District, said he started an account there 24 years ago — the best decision in his career. The Potts taught him how to fix early 1900s plumbing like those at Mark Keppel High School, which was built in 1939. No one but the Potts knew how to work with ancient pipes, he said.

“This is just a little mom and pop store, but they have everything,” Lewis said. “When they told me they’re going to leave, I had to go home and think, ‘What am I going to do?’ I’m going to miss them and will always love them.”

Potts Plumbing Parts first opened its doors 76 years ago. After two store moves, it settled in its final resting place, 2130 W. Valley Blvd. The shop has been liquidating inventory for months. Right now everything is 70 percent off.

Like old friends, the Potts are dependable, Lewis said. They open the shop early or stay open late to help him. And if they have to go somewhere, they leave the items he needs in a secret location outside.

“They always treated you with integrity,” he said. “A lot of stores sell stuff you don’t need or more than you need.”

The Potts, however, could fix a stem and charge less than a $1. Some new stems in the store cost about $80. When people want to buy a new valve, the Potts sometimes say they need only buy an inexpensive washer.

Now Joe Potts, 62 and a third-generation owner, said he’s ready to retire. He was indoctrinated into the family business when he was 12 and began working there after he earned a Master of Fine Arts from Otis College of Art and Design. At first, it was a flexible job that enabled him to pursue his artistic dreams, but these days he sometimes works more than 60 hours a week. He will transform Potts Plumbing Parts into an art studio.

“What we do is becoming obsolete,” he said. “People don’t think to repair things anymore unless it’s something they can’t change without a remodel. If it’s something like a faucet or sink, they just take it out and replace it.”

Two of the three Potts brothers got married, but none had children, so the business can’t be handed down. Besides, profits at the plumbing parts store began to plummet in 2008, Joe said. A generation of contractors and handymen retired or left the business, and younger people in the industry grew up going to “big-box stores” or shopping online.

Source: Pasadena Star News

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