- Linda Ruminer
Fred Lange worked in plumbing supplies in Fresno in the mid-1930s when his brother Albert, who had a plumbing supply business in Pasadena, offered him a stake in a company in the San Joaquin Valley.
Initially, the brothers considered Fresno or Bakersfield, but Fred Lange’s 9-year-old son, Ken, had a better idea. The youngster had traveled with his father on calls and knew that Tulare was half-way between Fresno and Bakersfield and successfully lobbied to locate the business in the little community of about 5,200 people. At that time, there were three plumbing supply businesses in Fresno, and the next one was in Los Angeles, so the location made sense.
Lange Plumbing Supply continues to operate in Tulare today with Curt Lange and Margo Lange Pliksis, two of Ken and Virginia Lange’s four children, and Curt and Janet’s son, Jared, and their employees carrying on the tradition.
The company’s first customer list in 1936 included Adohr Milk, Brott Plumbing, Canby’s, Levin’s, Linder Hardware, J.D. Heiskell Co, and Dairyman’s. The business covered all of Tulare and Kings Counties and parts of Kern and Fresno Counties. There were only three employees at the time.
The company’s original name was Lange Pipe and Supply Company, and it was located in a 9,000-square-ft building at 155 North L Street, at the corner of East King Avenue, from 1936 –1943.
In 1944, the business moved to its second location at 251 No. K Street, which is now part of Tower Square. Ken Lange joined the company in 1946, the same year his Uncle Albert died. In 1951, the business, now called Lange Plumbing Supply, moved to 420 E. Cross Avenue, leasing a building from Merle Soults.
In 1972, Curt joined the business. In 1973, when Fred passed away, Ken became the primary owner, and Curt became a partner. In 1976, the Lange Family bought the land their business was on and constructed new addition. Ken’s daughter, Margo, who is secretary of the company and oversees the showroom, joined the staff in 1979.
In the early years, the business was wholesale only, but with the start-up of Lowe’s and Home Depot in the 1980s, Lange’s added retail business.
In 1983 the business moved down the street to what used to be the old Pepsi-Cola Bottling Plant at 510 E. Cross Ave.
Jared Lange began working full-time for the company in 2003 while continuing his college studies and earning a business management degree from the University of Phoenix. Jared is a hard-worker, and his father said he would move up in the business.
Today Curt and Janet own the majority of the business and 100 percent of the real estate. Margo and Ken own the remaining stock.
The business has 14 employees, who the Lange family credits with helping them succeed.
Last year, the business built a new Kohler showroom. It is a magnificent, upscale display of very elite bathroom fixtures. It is one of the nicest in all the United States.
The Lange’s are big on giving to the community, and in 2007 the company was named the Tulare Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year.
Ken Lange has spent a considerable amount of time and money donating new and used instruments to the area schools for their musical programs. He is also active in the community musical groups, and the free concerts held every Wednesday night during the summer at Zumwalt Park.
The business donated all the plumbing supplies for the restrooms at the new Tulare Rotary Skate Park.
Curt Lange also worked hard with others and the Tulare Joint Union High School District to get a swimming pool at Tulare Union High School and replace the old one at Tulare Western.
Lange Plumbing always maintains a can-do attitude. Even in the face of slow economic times, they always pull together and never let it get them down. They always aim to press higher and go further to bigger and better things. I believe this “can-do” attitude has made Lange Plumbing Supply the success it is today.