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Next piece in life for Sterling businessman

Plainwell Brass owner retires, sells business

STERLING – For 28 years, David Allen made a successful and growing business out of delivering plumbing, heating and air conditioning parts and equipment throughout northern Illinois. 

Allen now is looking forward to more trips, but now he’ll keep the parts back home. 

The 77-year-old owner and president of Plainwell Brass sold his business to Robinson, Crawford County-based Bradford Supply Co.

He will retire after a brief transition period.

“My wife [Carolyn] tells me that I should have been retired a while back,” he said Monday.

Plainwell Brass began in 1953 and was a block east of its current location on the southeast corner of First Avenue and East. Second Street when Allen bought it in 1991. He moved to his current spot about 20 years ago.

Allen wanted to keep the company running and remain local. Bradford met the criteria.

“I wanted someone who would take it over and continue it if possible, and keep our people and be a family-oriented type of business."

Bradford Supply is a wholesale distributor of plumbing supplies, water well, watered an oil fields. The third-generation business is owned by Rocky Chamblin and Dave Chamblin, and employs about 120 people in eight Illinois locations, plus Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Wyoming. 

Other than a few additional lines of products, no major changes are planned and all will remain basically the same – except manager Tom Tiesman, who has been with the business since Allen bought it, now will run day-to-day operations and oversee its seven-person staff. 

Tiesman’s wife, Debbie, owns Kuntsen's Kitchen Planners, which shares space in the building.

Allen is a Sterling High School and Western Illinois University graduate, and served as a Navy lieutenant during the Vietnam War. He was a part-owner of Rock River Provision, and was a managing partner of a dude ranch in Estes Park, Colorado.

He and Carolyn, a tennis professional with the Sterling Park District, have been married for 55 years.

“I love the mountains,” he said. “Most of the time we’ll be coming and going. Most of our family still lives here in Illinois. As long as they’re here, we’ll probably stay.”

Allen will work through September, and Bradford has asked him if he could stay a little longer in a part-time capacity.

He’ll miss the customers and the family atmosphere at work.

“My people here are very loose as far as friendships, they’re not just employees. Meeting and greeting the guys that come in.”

More information

Plainwell Brass in Sterling has changed owners, but business plans to remain the same under the new management from Bradford Supply Co.

The store and showroom at 101 E. Second St. is open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, or by appointment.

Go to or call 815-625-0937 for more information.

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