Contractor Profile: Atomic Plumbing

Common plumbing service call scenarios involve customers who need something fixed with their toilet, sink or tub. The residential plumber provides such services regularly, in and out of customers’ homes daily. At the end of the day, that pro leaves their office, whether it’s mobile in the form of a work truck or an actual storefront, and enters a home of their own.

“Home, sweet home,” as the saying goes.

Home was indeed sweet for Jim Lane, co-founder of Atomic Plumbing. Not necessarily because it was a sanctuary or a getaway, but because it belonged to him; a new entrepreneur and business owner.

In 1968, Lane, and Elliot Vanostram, founded Atomic Plumbing. The two originally operated the business out of Lane’s house, offering plumbing, heating, and electrical work. After a decade of successful business, the Atomic Plumbing team expanded when Jim Steinle, the current president of the company, was hired upon graduating from high school in 1978. Lane enrolled Steinle in the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Association’s Apprenticeship Program so that he could learn the trade.

In 1984, the small team of three moved into its first location at the Airport Industrial Park in Virginia Beach, Va. Soon after, in 1985, Steinle was able to buy into the business. At the new location, Atomic Plumbing narrowed its services to plumbing and repairs to become more specialized.

The company took a blow not long after being in the new building, when Lane passed away in July of 1986. Steinle took on full ownership of the company and has been at the helm for almost three decades.

In 2006, Atomic Plumbing moved to its present location at 1377 London Bridge Road, in Virginia Beach. The team has built its reputation on doing quality work, in a timely and professional manner, for a fair price. The company’s hand-written mission statement hangs prominently on the wall in the office. The mission is simple: Be the best plumbing company in the area, period!

“We always strive to get better, and all of my employees live by 100 percent customer satisfaction, and they know management will stand behind our commitment to that,” Steinle said. “Our technicians are always looking to offer the customer as many options as possible. And, customers like options or choices because it puts them in control of the job.”

Atomic Plumbing’s promise is to deliver full service, 24 hours a day. If it has to do with plumbing, they can do it.

“We believe that we can fix, repair or replace any plumbing problem that comes our way, and we have all of the necessary tools, equipment, and manpower to handle almost any size job,” Steinle said. “We have built great relationships throughout the industry, which gives us the ability to help other plumbing contractors, as well, whenever they need help. They know we are there for them, plus it helps to keep our technicians busy.”

Atomic Plumbing specializes in drain cleaning. The company’s equipment helps the team perform well. Some of the products that their pros use include high-quality water jets, as well as Spartan Tool sewer machines and Ridgid Tools camera equipment.

“We are the company that most other local companies call when they have a problem or drain line that they can’t clear,” Steinle explained.

The employees are Atomic Plumbing’s greatest asset. Steinle works hard to give his staff the right tools, training and support. So hard, that he formally surveys employees every year to find out what will make the company better.

“The feedback is awesome,” Steinle explained. “100 percent of my employees know how they can help my company succeed, every day.”

While Steinle is proud of his team and the work that they do, he admitted that every project Atomic Plumbing has taken on has not been easy. In one high-rise project, the customer wanted all of their drains cleaned, including all of the stacks. Atomic Plumbing’s first bid did not end well. The customer’s maintenance personnel thought the price and the plan for the project were too extreme. So, Atomic Plumbing walked away. Three months later, after that customer had consulted with four additional plumbing companies, Atomic Plumbing was called back out to the project. Steinle’s team presented the customer with the same proposal, but this time the customer was more agreeable to the recommendations.

In the long run, the customer ended up hiring Atomic Plumbing for the project. Steinle’s team installed 24 cleanouts throughout the building for access, and cleaned all of the drains, including the stacks. The customer has not reported any problems since.

“We are now the only plumbing company that they will allow in their building,” Steinle added. “This was one of our better jobs, and definitely one of the most challenging. But, we took our time, did it right, and our customers are completely thrilled with their drains and the outcome!”

Steinle said that drain cleaning will always be a strong part of Atomic Plumbing’s business. Because they offer 24-hour service, business increases at night and on the weekends. Steinle also predicted that the company will soon see an increase in the installs they do with tankless water heaters. Steinle expressed that tankless water heaters are one of the fastest growing segments in the industry, and that new energy regulations will only fuel that trend.

“We are seeing a more proactive approach to a lot of the repairs and replacements,” Steinle said. “Our customers are not waiting for things to break before they are fixing them, replacing them, or upgrading them; and they are spending money again.”

Atomic Plumbing stays on the pulse of the industry through its involvement in organizations including the PHCC Association, NEXSTAR Network, Qualified Gas Contractors Association and Cross Connections Association. The company’s involvement with the groups helps with education, training, networking, and innovation.

“NEXSTAR has the best technical training and management training in the industry. PHCC has some of the best apprenticeship training in the industry, and they also look out after our industry both on state and national levels as far as legislation is concerned,” Steinle noted. “Both PHCC and NEXSTAR have introduced me to some of the best and smartest people in our industry. I’ve been able to learn a lot from not only my peers, but other industry experts as well. My business would not be where it is today without the help of associations like NEXSTAR and PHCC.”

The fulfillment that Steinle’s work brings him is apparent. He is proud of his business and his industry as whole. The slow but steady rebound of the economy and resulting effects, such as increased spending in home replacements and improved attitudes toward product pricing, give Steinle hope for the longevity of his work.

“I see nothing but a bright future for our industry, and I believe that whole heartedly. We are in the best position ever to provide a quality product for our customers at a fair price,” Steinle said. “So, please provide quality service to each and every one of your customers. Our industry needs it and deserves it.”

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