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Unique idea: a plumbing showroom

Jim Alberts opened the showroom for A.J. Alberts Plumbing in spring 2007, along Afton Road in Woodbury. This is what it looks like in 2017. (Bulletin photo by Mathias Baden)

In a young city like Woodbury, residents well remember the housing boom.

Chances are if your home was built in Wedgewood between the years of 1994 and 2006, AJ Alberts Plumbing had a hand in constructing your bathroom and kitchen.

In the early 2000s, as recession hit developers hard and tradesmen began reinventing themselves, owners Jim and Susan Alberts made a bold move: they built a showroom.

A local plumber who started his business with his wife 28 years ago with a master plumber's license, a van and some tools boasts a showroom featuring the latest top-quality plumbing fixtures and faucets, along with bathroom vanities, countertops and accessories.

AJ Alberts' growing family business started in August 1989. The couple, now married 30 years, moved to a historic home in 1993.

AJ Alberts bought a building at 7975 Afton Road, seven-tenths of a mile from their historic home, in 2006.

The showroom — not only novel for a plumbing company but also "a one-stop shop," Jim Alberts said — opened in 2007.

The customer experience is meant to be different than visiting a big-box retailer that will send a unknown subcontractor into customers' houses to do the work, Alberts said.

"With our showroom, we have the ability to sell you the part, install it, and we back it up with the best warranty in the business. We'll be here if you need something," he added. "We have good customers. Our best customer is the person who wants an update and they want the one-stop shop."

AJ Alberts prides itself in offering quality products and a high level of service from local employees, not subcontractors, based in Woodbury.

Repeat business and referrals are key, Alberts said.

Customers come into the showroom, make selections and receive recommendations from start to finish. They gain advice from AJ Alberts' showroom manager and kitchen and bathroom designer.

"It all seems to be pretty easy for them," Jim Alberts said of his customers, "and they like that. We try and make it easy."

AJ Alberts, not to be confused with a general contractor or remodeler, sticks to its biggest strength: plumbing. If a product isn't in AJ Alberts' product offering, the plumbing company can offer a referral to other local contractors, Jim Alberts said.

Alberts grew up in South St. Paul and previously lived in Lake Elmo. At vocational-technical school, Jim studied industrial hydraulics and pneumatics. He played on a softball team sponsored by a plumbing company, which led to a job with as a journeyman and going into business with Susan. They have two sons — Matt, 29, and Ben, 23.

AJ Alberts leases part of it building to Valley Chiropractic, a local business that came to Woodbury in 1997 and moved next to the showroom in 2008.

AJ Alberts has recently and repeatedly won local people's choice awards, as well as participating in golf tournaments to benefit the Woodbury Lions Veterans Memorial.

The company has made donations to benefit schools, parks, police and fire, Jim Alberts said. "I like to do that. It's one of the perks of the job."

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