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Passion for welding fulfills rising demand

When it comes to running Mahany Welding Supply Co., Michael Krupnicki follows his father’s mantra: “We don’t have customers. We have friends who buy from us.”

That statement, says Krupnicki, president of Mahany Welding and executive director of Rochester Arc & Flame Center, is the foundation of his businesses’ corporate cultures.

“I consider myself a servant leader who tries to lead by example. I don’t just come in, bark orders, leave and go to the golf course. I work along with my staff,” Krupnicki says.

Mahany Welding is an industrial distributor of welding and cutting equipment, supplies, industrial gases, safety equipment and metal fabrication tools.

Krupnicki’s father, Ted, an original hire in 1946, bought the company in 1959. Michael Krupnicki purchased the company from his family in 2007. Currently there are 10 full-time employees. Mahany Welding’s customers include sectors like construction, manufacturing, auto repair, medicine and education.

In 2001 Krupnicki built a new facility in Gates. To fulfill what he saw as a growing need for welders in Rochester, the design included a training area.

“Originally I thought, if I could get five or six people in a class, once a month, I’d be doing well,” he says. “The first nine years we had 3,500 students.”

The demand prompted Krupnicki to build an addition at the site and establish a training business called the Arc & Flame Center. The facility drew the attention of metal and glass artisans as well. It has partnerships with three local colleges to offer credit-bearing classes. 

“In addition to all the welding classes we offered at Mahany, we now provide a variety of classes in glass arts as well as blacksmithing and metalsmithing,” Krupnicki says. “We have had people come from around the Northeast and tell us there is nothing like it in their cities.”

The Arc & Flame Center has three full-time employees and around 20 part-time teachers. Several of Krupnicki’s employees are graduates of the training classes.

“Staff that interact with Mahany customers are welders themselves,” he says. “They know the products, and they know how to use them. I think that’s a huge differentiator in our industry.”

Mahany has been featured in numerous national welding-related publications for its innovative approach to distributorship and for its physical environment. In 2005, the American Welding Society, which recognizes businesses that have improved the image of welding in their community, gave the honor to Mahany in the distributor category. Both businesses were named as the Monroe County Business of the Month in February 2012. A year later the Gates Chili Chamber recognized Arc & Flame with its Innovative Business and Arts and Culture Award.

Krupnicki’s businesses support organizations like First Robotics for high school students and the engineering clubs at Rochester Institute of Technology, Monroe Community College and University of Rochester.

“We offer those students access to our facilities, where we teach them to weld and enhance their knowledge base,” Krupnicki says.

MCC offers a Welding and Fabrication Certificate Program at the Arc & Flame Center.

“Not everybody can afford to attend that program,” Krupnicki says. “So I have started a scholarship where two students from each cohort get half their full tuition paid. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to do something like that.”

He is looking to expand the variety of courses offered by Arc & Flame, and has been considering franchising the model to inspire creativity in other cities.

Krupnicki is excited about the future, especially welding automation.

“We are committed to supporting robotic welding in the region,” he says. “Many companies will need welding automation if they are to remain competitive. Our plan is to be the only distributor in the region that can sell and support robotic work cells and also provide the trained operators necessary to run them.”

10/9/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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