Do new ideas travel at the speed of light? Sometimes it certainly seems so. That’s probably been true ever since Thomas Edison sparked an electrical revolution with the light bulb. Companies like Graybar grabbed the opening and ran with it.

By early 1882, Western Electric (as Graybar was then known) had become the world’s leading manufacturer of perhaps the biggest game-changer in the history of communications: the telephone “apparatus.”

Western ElectricThe Western Electric brand was well known and trusted by the public as it moved into the 20th century. Seizing an opportunity, in 1915 the company introduced Western Electric washing machines, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, clothes irons, fans, kitchen ranges, percolators, toasters and dishwashers—every modern convenience an electrified home could want.

Automobile, radios, phonographs and refrigerators, which were initially too pricey for ordinary people, became affordable by the 1920s. The new machines lightened the load of working Americans, eventually giving rise to cultural changes such as mass communication, travel by car, music on LPs, and free time to enjoy all these innovations.

Americans wanted all the material goods the manufacturers could produce. Graybar Electric Company began operations in late 1925. And in 1926, all Western Electric household appliances were re-branded as Graybar. These appliances competed head to head with top names such as General Electric and Maytag. The Graybar appliance brand itself was discontinued in 1934, a victim of the Depression, but the company lived on, embracing its legacy of revolutionary ideas.

Today, we use our technological experience to help business customers transform not just what they do but also how they do it. We were one of the first national distributors to install a mainframe computer system, connecting our entire company on a single platform. We started using zone warehouses to complement our branch network, and this combination of technology and physical locations prepared us to take advantage of the expansion of the internet and our customers’ desire to connect like never before.

Tomorrow belongs to digital distribution, using technology in all aspects of our business to deliver on the expectations of our customers. Our history offers plenty of examples where we seized opportunities and won. By providing innovative new services and leveraging technology to work better, Graybar can help customers eliminate the friction and waste involved in construction and management of supply chains. For those who own and manage buildings and facilities, Graybar can help optimize operations and cut costs.

Our customers may have changed since the 1920s, but our value to our customers has not.