HILLSBOROUGH — Tom Murray and David Erman never met prior to the day the now co-owners of Ace Copy Systems decided to embark on what has become a million-dollar business venture.

In November 1996, Murray of Doylestown, Pa., already had established a business selling office equipment when Erman of Sparta was working as a sales representative. The pair was invited -- along with other participants -- to a business conference in South Jersey, where they learned about being part of a profit-sharing plan with an office equipment dealer.

By chance, Murray and Erman took a break from the conference outside the building, introduced themselves, talked and decided they didn't want to join the dealer. Instead, they left the conference and headed to a local T.G.I. Friday's restaurant. Over drinks at the restaurant, they shook hands and decided to become business partners in selling product for Panasonic.

In January 1997, Murray and Erman set up Ace Copy Systems in a small office on Omni Drive. Murray noted the township was a prime central meeting point from their homes.

Inventory became a full-line of digital, color and analog copiers, document imaging, multifunction machines, scanners, fax and electronic white boards. As the business grew, the pair needed to move into a larger 5,105-square-foot facility on Dickerson Road, which now houses a large supply warehouse and offices.

A second office location also was added in Parsippany. In the past four years, sales have totaled between $5 to $6 million, Murray said.

Murray and Erman said the key to being successful in a time of recession is to promote a product people need. Copy systems in both small offices and large corporations allow for faster, more efficient work, Erman said.

"Any business needs one of these devices because it can copy, print, scan, fax and send e-mail all from one device,'' Erman said. "And some work in color.''

Customers include law offices, schools, banks and engineering firms, as well as Fortune 500 corporations. Copiers cost anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000.

Murray and Erman are shopping for a second manufacturer and plan to double their inventory.
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