HISTORY MYSTERY: Jerome Fire Equipment Company
For the celebration of the Town of Clay’s 175th Anniversary in 2002, Manford “Manny” Jerome relayed the history of the beginning years of the Jerome Fire Equipment Company. Actually as a cottage industry, it started in 1967 in the garage of their home on Morgan Road and expanded to a 26-employee office to supply the increasing demand of the public. “After 35 years of long hours and hard work, here we are”, stated Manny.
There are many reasons that the company even then held the title of the longest-running commercial organization in Clay (that is with the same owner). They have the ability to change with the times, a work ethic that surpasses the boundaries of the typical 9-5 workday. From fire extinguishers and loose equipment to trucks and repairs, Jerome does it all and continues to make an impression on friends and neighbors. Jerome continued: “It was just a quirk of fate that pushed me in this direction because it never had entered my mind to go into this business. But then one thing kind of evolved into the other. Service is the name of the game; if you can service the products, then they’ll buy them from you.”
A high-school English teacher by trade who never spent more than several days in the classroom, Jerome found his way to the fire equipment business after spending a summer working for the Thousand Island Bridge Authority. When a leadership position in the fire department opened up, Manny volunteered to fill the vacancy and stumbled upon the industry that would take his career in a different direction. His interest was further peaked while working for a colleague. His brother joined the business in 1968 and together, the two expanded the simple concept into a three-division labor of love. “I came into this with the idea that I wouldn’t have to spend eight hours a day behind the same desk teaching,” said Jerome, eyes sparkling. “Little did I know that it would take 14 hours a day instead!”
After weighing his options and evaluating the market outlook, Jerome chose to settle his business and family in this area. Minutes from Syracuse and surrounded by potential customers, the town of Clay just seemed to be the perfect fit for the new company. There were 54 fire departments in Onondaga County at that time. Jerome continued: “Fortunately, fire departments aren’t affected greatly by the economy. They still need the supplies, whereas if you’re in a luxury field, maybe you can do without. Ours is a nice market to be in!”
After the September 11 terrorist attack, Jerome found himself in a position to help downstate victims while accommodating a high volume of client requests. This event made people more aware of what could happen with a major catastrophe. Although they were ready to send needed people, all New York needed from Jerome’s was just product. As for the future, Manny’s son, Russell, was ready to fill his father’s shoes after the coming July when Manny retired in 2002. He had been working under Manny for the preceding seven years.
For nearly 55 years while serving the needs of protecting local communities from the dangers of fire, Jerome Fire Equipment has been there to support the area in every way. Since 1967 when Manny Jerome founded the company, Jerome Fire has provided equipment, product training and service in the many facets of fire suppression and fire protection. In 1971, while Manny was still manager, the business was able to acquire eight acres of property nearby on Caughdenoy Road. Operations were expanded into firefighting equipment and fire apparatus sales and service. In 1995, Manny’s son, Russell, joined the business and subsequently officially took over business operations as president when Manny retired from the company in 2002. Russell credits the ongoing success of the business to his team of 35 dedicated, caring and customer-focused employees.
Today, Jerome Fire operates from a 15,000 square foot facility of administrative offices, product warehousing, a full-service fire extinguisher and fire suppression systems maintenance facility; DOT licensed hydro-testing, a SCBA service and repair center, and a six-bay fire apparatus service center. In addition to in-house services, Jerome Fire is equipped with a Company Fleet of 16 GPS enabled vehicles which deliver products and services directly to the customers.
Following is a customer testimonial expressing gratitude to the Jerome Fire Equipment Company:
“We have an excellent working relationship with Jerome Fire Equipment Company. Jerome’s
is always willing to work with us and meet our needs, whatever it takes. We were given
more than enough time to try out the demo units and were offered all the training
time we needed. Thank you. Chief Don Forbes, Mexico Fire Department”
Dorothy Heller, Historian