Business Review -2005 - RMSano

McGraths say family values, good sense of humor make it happen

The McGrath siblings are carrying on the business that their grandfather, John A. Bylancik, started in the 1930s. The quartet runs ATSCO Products, a company that has evolved from humble beginnings as a movie-poster business to become Albany Theatre Supply Co., to a multi-division company that sells janitorial and theater supplies.

Family values and the ability to adapt to a changing marketplace are what makes the company prosper. The siblings have worked well with each for decades, and much of that has to do with the humorous way they look at being in business together. Ruth Sano, who serves as the company's financial officer (none of the siblings disputes that--money matters clearly are her domain), said that working with her siblings is penance. "I figure it's my ticket to heaven after spending 30 years working with my brothers!" she said. Tom McGrath, ATSCO's vice president, runs the theater-supply division. He jokes that working with his brothers and sisters is like being around fish; "After a couple of days, it begins to stink." When asked if there is a pecking order at the company, he said, "Yes, they usually start pecking at my eyes and work down." For company president Dick McGrath, working with his brother and sisters is just plain scary. The sibling dynamic seems to be ever-present. Younger siblings Jean Eppelmann, who handles inbound and outbound logistics, and Tom get a good laugh when customers think that Dick is their father. Jean said that they also allow their older brother to think that he is the one "in charge." Getting on each other's nerves (Tom said it's not the nerves, its the left ventricle) is a common occurrence. However, Eppelmann points out, they try to laugh about the day's disagreements and fights before they go home. Customers won't see the siblings disagree, though, Sano said. "We try to spare the customers by doing it when they aren't around--it keeps them from getting injured when we are throwing objects at each other." Dick, Ruth and Tom try to stay away from Jean when things get heated. "She's got a black belt," Tom said. The kidding is based on their affection for one another, and a love of carrying on the business tradition of their grandfather: honesty, integrity and customer service. And one thing they all agree on is to leave work at the office. Work issues don't play a role outside ATSCO, but the sibling thing--that's a different story.

By Joanne McFadden For The Business Review

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