Brame delivers products, services and solutions to our customers throughout the Carolinas and Virginia.
Founded in 1924, we remain family owned and operated with a strong focus on the communities where we live and work. Our goal is to assist our customers in taking the next step to improve the appearance, health and efficiency of their facilities. Brame is your best source for local full-line janitorial, office, education & furniture products offering over 100,000 of your favorite items. We have everything your business needs to run with pricing that beats the competition.
The First Generation
Brame began as a one-employee, one-room operation in January of 1924. Robert Lee Brame, the company founder, began this business with a used truck bought that was purchased on credit and total capital of one hundred dollars, which represented his entire savings at that time. Through his hard work, the addition of dedicated employees and most of all loyal customers gained through the years, the company has grown in many ways.
The company started out selling sweeping compound, which Mr. R.L. made himself. He selected the name Brame Specialty Company because, first, it was his name; and second, he wasn’t sure what other products the company would eventually offer to meet his customer’s needs.
In 1925, an old five-room house was leased for $25 per month and that became the new office for the growing company. Running water and the addition of a telephone were great improvements enjoyed by the young company and it’s employees.
Deciding to expand his product offering and to begin dealing directly with manufacturers of other products, Mr. R.L. traveled to New York where he located a manufacturer of roll butcher's paper. He arranged for credit terms and persuaded the manufacture to send a (train) carload of roll paper to Durham. Enthusiasm over receipt of this first carload of new merchandise, however, was short lived. A week of heavy rains had undermined the structure and the floors in three of the rooms collapsed under the weight of the heavy rolls, dumping the butcher’s paper to the ground and bulging the building on two sides. A better building of brick was located next door and after some negotiating, the paper and other inventory were shifted next door.
In 1930, Mr. R.L. bought a vacant lot on Washington Street and built a warehouse. The new office consisted of a bookkeeper, two salesmen, two warehouseman/drivers and Mr. R.L. The organization continued to develop a promising business until late in 1933 when calamity struck in the form of a fire, which destroyed the building.
The Second Generation
After the fire, the company took up temporary spaces in different parts of Durham to store inventory and continue operations. When J.B. Brame, son of the founder, returned from World War II he designed a modern fireproof building that was built in 1955 on the Washington Street lot. Around this same time, the company was incorporated, which helped assure the continuity of the business for the future. J.B. Brame succeeded his father as company president in 1965. Mr. R.L. sold and delivered merchandise himself from the very beginning of the company until his death in 1968.
The Third Generation
Jim Brame, Jr. who succeeded his father J.B. Brame as president in 1984, joined the firm in 1959 and was followed by brothers Bob in 1964 and Randy in 1971. Together the three sons, like their father and grandfather before them, and aided by a team of dedicated employees, helped sustain the company's health and rapid growth.
Along with the company’s growth in Durham, Brame Specialty Company expanded throughout North Carolina and Virginia with Rocky Mount opening in 1947, Wilmington in 1977, Charlotte in 1985 and Roanoke, Virginia is 1991.
In 1989 a retail store named Not Just Paper was opened in downtown Durham to provide service to walk-in customers, plus offer school and office supplies.
A new 80,000 square foot facility in Durham was completed in 1991 and continues operating today as one of six distributions points servicing customers.
The Fourth Generation
In 2012, the company transitioned into it’s fourth generation of family leadership as Mercer Stanfield, son-in-law of Jim Brame Jr., took the helm as President and COO. Mercer’s industry knowledge and experience gained through working in various departments of the company provided him unique insight into the many challenges facing both the industry at large and especially family legacy businesses. Motivated by his passion for the industry, guided by his vision for Brame and through Mercer’s direction the company began developing strategic plans and making intentional decisions to position themselves for the future, in a fast-changing marketplace.
In 2013 Brame’s sixth location was added upon opening a branch in Richmond, VA to help serve our growing customer base in Virginia. Having this second point of operation in the eastern part of the state allowed Brame to better serve it’s Virginia customers and to strengthen a solid base upon which to continue to grow.
In years following Brame underwent a rebranding intended to modernize the company’s logo and add a tagline. The decision was made to drop the “Specialty Company” from our name and simply to be known as Brame. A new logo and tagline were unveiled in 2017.
Also in 2017, the School and Office Supply Division was moved from the Washington Street location to the building on Briggs Avenue, fully consolidated into the General Division of the company and all divisions began operating under the sole name of Brame at the beginning of 2018. This allowed for a simplified point of contact, ordering and billing capabilities of all product categories in order to better serve our customers going forward.
During recent years substantial investments have been made, including a new ERP system for the company, which requires the use of barcodes on all products moving in and out of the warehouses. The Purchasing and Operations Teams undertook the daunting task of capturing UPCs for all items in the warehouse. Once completed and fully implemented, the new requirements reduced the overall shipping errors to a rate of less than 1%.
Investments in Technology
Simultaneously as the new ERP system was being incorporated, Brame also implemented a new Operating System called EOS. The company identified central core values which many long-time, loyal employees exemplified, and made a commitment to them by hiring new Brame employees who hold those same values. A conscious decision is made to honor each employee’s unique talents and abilities by intentionally placing them into positions within the company that best utilized their specific skill sets. The Senior Leadership Team, guided by Mercer, operates transparently regarding all aspects of what was going on throughout the entire company, providing a format and giving a voice to every Brame employee for their valued input. This has created culture whereby all employees can unite, work towards the same goals, drive towards a common vision and concentrate their focus on providing better service to our customers.
A new, data-rich website became a top priority for the company as customers increasingly demand easy to use ecommerce platforms for their product and information research as well as placing orders. Through close, tedious work with all vendor partners, product information is captured and loaded into a PIM (product information management), feed on to the new Magento ecommerce platform and API connections allow communications between the Brame ERP and ecommerce platform real-time for customers to access their specific account information and a better experience through the Brame website.
Expanding Products & Services
While Brame has sold furniture for decades predominately to the K-12 education market, a real emphasis was made towards growing this entire product category by addition of new vendor partners and commitment to a full-time Furniture Installation Department. Customers are now able to look to Brame for all of their furniture needs and trust their furniture orders can be scheduled to delivered on a Brame truck, driven by a Brame driver, assembled and installed by Brame employees both during the traditional summer season for education-based projects as well as throughout the entire year for any type of furniture project.
In addition to our Furniture Install Department, we continue making the necessary investments in our Service Department which provides warranty, service and repair services to floor equipment, laundry, warewash equipment and packaging machines. We stand behind the products we sell with a team of knowledgeable, factory trained Service Technicians who can either travel to your facility or repair equipment that is brought into one of our Brame locations.
In 2020, our Corporate staff moved out of the building on Washington Street into new space in downtown Durham. Looking towards the future we have plans for an addition that will allow our Accounting, IT and HR staffs to join our other team members Purchasing, Customer Experience, Inside Sales, Operations and Senior Leadership at the Briggs Avenue location.
The hard work of dedicated employees, support of excellent supply partners and guidance by a management team that puts customer service first all attribute to Brame’s storied history, however the main contributor of our success, continued growth and the future of Brame is the result of loyal customers, whom we remain committed to servicing, and who are the reason we are in business.