Twin Cities’ shoppers used to call Jack Rubenstein to get lower prices on snowblowers, mattresses, diamonds, watches and automobiles.
“I can get it for you wholesale,” was his motto going back to 1946. Few stores could duplicate the scope of his Jack Rubenstein Wholesale. “His business was a precursor to the internet,” said his son-in-law Fred Kaplan.
Today, Jack Rubenstein Wholesale is benefiting from a different trend: people who are fixing up their homes because they spend more time in them.
“COVID’s effect on our business was pretty scary at first,” said Jen Zulkosky, the current co-owner. “We’re not doing better than last year, but the huge increase in kitchen and bath remodeling since COVID makes us optimistic.”
Rubenstein, 99, and living in St. Louis Park, sold his business to co-worker Joel Grossman in 1982. In 2008, Jen and Adam Zulkosky of East Bethel bought it.
Rubenstein’s customers can’t use the service to find a car or a boat motor for less any longer. But its home remodeling partners also include Warners’ Stellian, the local appliance store giant.
The company is holding a big sales event next week, with prices on countertops, cabinets, carpet, wood and tile flooring, and luxury vinyl tile discounted an extra 10 to 20% off wholesale pricing at ProSource showrooms in Bloomington, Plymouth and Oakdale.
“The discounts are real and people wait for it,” said Ken Nash, who owns the franchised ProSource locations in Minnesota and partners with the Jack Rubenstein company. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand this year.”
ProSource is usually open only to people in the building trades from remodelers and property managers to builders and general contractors, but next week’s event is open to the public because of the Rubenstein partnership.
Some manufacturers and ProSource are throwing in extra discounts, Nash said. ProSource has midline to high-end brands such as HanStone and Cambria countertops, Dura Supreme cabinets and Fabrica and Masland carpets.
With supplies, especially from China, taking longer to arrive since the pandemic, ProSource and its manufacturers have steered sourcing to Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea and the U.S. when possible.
Lead times for cabinets, except all-custom models, are three to six weeks compared with two weeks before the pandemic, Nash said.
Most carpets are made in the U.S. and are seeing little to no delays, he said.
But luxury vinyl tile or plank is made overseas and still seeing extended lag times.
To gain access to the ProSource showrooms, consumers need to go to jlrwholesale.com or call 952-922-4781. By referring a customer to ProSource, Rubenstein gets a referral fee of 1 to 5%.
Rubenstein also established relationships with more than 400 Minnesota and western Wisconsin companies such as 3M and Medtronic as a perk for employees who are part of the Minnesota Employee Resource Service Company.
Zulkosky said many of her customers are home remodelers who want to see items in person first.
“We are a local small business,” she said. “Many of our buyers still prefer to buy local.”