Most likely, Dan and Michael Schwab’s grandfather, the late David Schwab, would be proud to see all that D&H Distributing Company has become in its centennial year.
In 1918, David Schwab opened Economy Tire and Rubber with Harry Spector in Williamsport, a business that guaranteed its tire retreads before manufacturers guaranteed tires. David Schwab wasn’t the sort of person to sit on his laurels, however. In the 1920s, he noticed that a new technology was becoming more common in people’s homes and decided to take action.
“My grandfather saw radios come out and saw that as an opportunity,” noted Dan Schwab, who serves as the company’s co-chair with brother, Michael. “We saw a lot of the technological revolution.”
In 1929, Economy Tire and Rubber changed its name to D&H Distributing and began selling Philco radios, the first brand available on the consumer market. Then in 1938, D&H became an official dealer of RCA, soon a vanguard for another new technology. At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, RCA introduced the public to television.
In 1943, D&H sold off its auto parts business to finance an expansion in consumer electronics. It turned out to be a very wise move.
Today, D&H Distributing is a leading distributor of IT and electronics, serving as a major provider to the North American high-tech channel. The company moved to Harrisburg more than 60 years ago and now is headquartered Uptown on 7th Street, with major operations locally at the Union Square Industrial Park and in Illinois, California, Georgia and Canada.
A technology museum on the first floor of the Harrisburg headquarters pays testament to how D&H has kept itself going through the mindboggling chain of technological advances over the past century. Here, first-generation computers and video game systems sit amid old radios, color TVs and stereos in consoles.
Dan and Michael Schwab are the third generation of their family to lead D&H. Their father, Izzy Schwab, still serves as chairman/CEO after more than 60 years with the company.
“We think of it as a torch, that we have a responsibility to make sure our business thrives for future generations,” Michael explained. “Izzy put forth a family constitution for us.”
Michael’s son, Brandon, began working in D&H’s sales department two years ago, but this doesn’t necessary mean that the family’s fourth generation, most of whom are now in college, will wind up with the company.
“They haven’t decided yet,” Michael said. “We tell them that it’s an opportunity, not an obligation.”
Dan and Michael each worked their way up the ranks. Dan started there in 1995 in the education division, selling technology items to schools. Michael began his D&H career by working in outside sales, also in 1995. Both insist that nepotism plays no role in the family-run business.
“We have guidelines for family members to make sure it’s company first and that family doesn’t interfere with business,” Dan stressed.
“You don’t cause discord with family and business,” Michael agreed.
Around 1,200 employees keep D&H humming nationwide, including 800 workers based in Harrisburg. Along with its centennial year of business, the company also marks its 20th year in 2018 as an ESOP company, which stands for “Employee Stock Ownership Plan.”
D&H employee co-owners have a stake in more than 30 percent of the company.
Other employee perks include a dedicated walking track, free gym membership, an employee loan program and more. Many D&H employees have been there for a least a decade, with a few even racking up 40 years with the company.
“It’s a two-way street,” Michael said. “Some of our best ideas come from employees who own the responsibility.”
“We’re big believers in hiring people and letting them do their job,” Dan added. “Our strongest asset is our people.”
This year, D&H Distributing also marks the 10th anniversary of D&H Cares, an in-house, staff-run charity foundation supporting regional and national causes.
Each quarter, three nonprofit organizations are selected as beneficiaries. Recipients have included the Bethesda Mission, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army and many others.
The company also places an emphasis on recycling and environmental mindfulness. So far, solar panels are used at two of its facilities.
“We are committed to the community,” Michael stressed. “We’ve been here (in Harrisburg) for more than 60 years. The culture of our organization has transcended decades. The people and technology may have changed, but our culture has remained the same, which allowed us to survive despite many business challenges over the years.”
D&H Distributing is located at 2525 N. 7th St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.dandh.com.