American Plumber Stories 610458b6d537f

American Plumber Stories

Aug. 2, 2021
A new initiative from Pfister is hoping to revamp the image of the trades—and attract a new generation of plumbers.

Spencer Brown has been working for Pfister—a leading manufacturer of kitchen and bath fixtures—since graduating from the University of Alabama 22 years ago. He spent most of his time travelling the country working alongside plumbers, wholesalers and builders and eventually made his way up to his current position, Director of Sales.

But COVID gave his career what he calls a “halftime break,” and he used the opportunity to try on a new role: executive producer for the company’s new, bi-weekly digital docuseries, American Plumber Stories. The series hopes to promote the trade to a new generation of workers by showing what the real work involves and what the real rewards can be. Brown spoke with CONTRACTOR about how the series came to be.

CONTRACTOR: So where did the idea for American Plumber Stories come from?

Spencer Brown: Well, [COVID] gave me a lot more in-office time. Time to really think about the Pfister brand and what we could do to get our story out. How can we elevate the brand? How can we take it to the next level?

At the same time, with all my travelling, every plumber I’ve met, from Florida to California and every place in-between has one common issue: manpower. It was always manpower, every single one of them, finding new plumbers or getting new help into the trade. They’re doing everything they can and, all of them—whether it’s new construction or renovation or repair—they all say, “If I had more people, I could do more work.”

At the same time, all these plumbers that we’re close with, that we do business with, they are some of the wealthiest people I know! I mean they are SET financially. Some of them, they get to travel all over the world, they live just amazing lives. And I was like, this is a great industry and no one’s getting in it. We’ve got to tell their story, how they got in and how rewarding it has been for them…

So I reached out to several producers who I thought could help us, and one in particular is Sub-7—they do a lot for the Outdoor Channel—and Marc Womack immediately e-mailed me back. He shared with me an example of what he did for Academy Sports (they’re a retailer), and I thought, that’s how we’re going to do it. We’re going to tell the story, and make it a learning mechanism for the younger generation… That’s where it kind of came together, and from there it just evolved.

CONTRACTOR: How hard was it to sell this idea to the higher-ups at Pfister?

Brown: It wasn’t. I definitely had to share the vision of the show, because we’ve never done anything like this. In fact, I can’t think of any manufacturer in our industry who’s done anything quite like this, to this extent.

I just tried to explain that, when it comes to plumbing, we’re all stakeholders… if there isn’t a new generation coming up it can affect our business, kind of a ripple effect. The way I see it, we’re giving back to the community that has supported us for 111 years. This is our way to give back to them, where we can help them define what a plumber is, what a good job is.

The irony is, everything in our lives, our houses, today revolves around water. Our places of work, of recreation, it’s the lifeblood of who we are. But the plumbers, the people who make this happen, have one of the least respected jobs in our country. And that perception is one of the reasons the younger generation hasn’t got into it.

So when I put it like that they were very supportive, extremely supportive. Our company culture is very entrepreneurial, they let us come up with things like this. So no, it wasn’t a hard sell.

CONTRACTOR: I’ve seen the first episode of the show featuring Ken Clark, a plumber (and racing enthusiast) out of Mississippi, and it looks great. I was very glad how you didn’t sugarcoat the profession. You show how demanding the work can be, sometimes with long days in tough conditions.

Brown: Yeah, it can be tough, but it’s rewarding… financially rewarding, because these plumbers are making really good money (whether you’re the owner or not, you’re making good money, a great living), but what I hear the most from the interviews we’ve done is how rewarding it can be when it comes to just a sense of accomplishment. People like to see that they were able to use their hands, to build these things. So we definitely show that, it really comes through.

And [Ken Clark], his story, his passion for plumbing is just off the charts. That’s why we really wanted to have him on. That was actually the first [episode] we did, and good as it is I feel the rest [of the series] is going to be even better.

CONTRACTOR: So when and how can people watch the show?

Brown: We’re going to split things up into two seasons of six episodes each. We’ll start the first season August 2nd, then we’ll take maybe a two-month break and start back up in January with season two. We’re also going to have a special Labor Day episode, and we’re going to have the Chairman of the NAHB [National Association of Home Builders] participating, we’ll have some advocates from some of the other trades represented, and we’re going to highlight some of the younger generation that we’ve interviewed and how they got into it. So it will be kind of an interesting bonus episode.

The landing page is, and there will be an American Plumber Stories YouTube channel.

Also on the landing page we’ll talk about the series and we’ll talk about the series host, [army veteran, outdoorsman and Billboard-charting country music performer] Craig Morgan. We are extremely excited to have him hosting. His persona—who he is and what he does—perfectly fit the message we’re trying to send and the target audience we’re trying to reach.

We’ll also have [on the landing page] information on our partnership with the National Housing Endowment to support the Skilled Labor Fund. There will be information on that so that young people, people in high school, can apply for scholarships or get involved in the skilled trades.

That’s the kind of stewardship we’re going to be doing, because we don’t just want to talk about getting into the trade, we want to actually help people get into the trade. Down the road we hope to create a plumbing mentorship program… We found out during our interviews that a lot of the younger people in the trade were there because someone in the plumbing industry reached out and became a mentor to them.

So we hope to develop a program where we will have plumbers volunteer their time to go into schools and talk about the trade so young people can hear about it firsthand, so they can tell their stories and inspire, educate and entertain. And that’s really the goal that I laid out with American Plumber Stories, inspire, educate, and entertain… We really want to follow through on this thing, to make it successful and get the youth involved.

CONTRACTOR: Thanks for your time today, Spencer. Really looking forward to the series.

Brown: Thanks.

About the Author

Steve Spaulding | Editor-inChief - CONTRACTOR

Steve Spaulding is Editor-in-Chief for CONTRACTOR Magazine. He has been with the magazine since 1996, and has contributed to Radiant Living, NATE Magazine, and other Endeavor Media properties.

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