Saturday, June 18, 2016

update 2016

A partnership disagreement at the Bethlehem store started when my sisters who are my partners decided not to forward my share of the rent. The two sisters of this 3-person partnership made this decision so they could pay themselves. It seemed that since the beginning this blog has been a target.  In one of the documents I possess, the sisters demanded that I take my all my social media sites down, including my business website and keep them down.  So at the advice of my lawyer I have not added content to this blog.  This has not stopped the sisters from slandering me and my business’s reputation.  As I start writing again I will back up what I write with documents collected over the last 3 years. 

At the bottom each story I will start posting “in their own words”.  This will be quotes and actual writings from the document stash that I have collected.    



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowthrower service

This is just one of my updates as stories come too me. This is from a note we give to some of our repair customers.  Just remember it is unedited.  I would appreciate comments. 

Dear Snowthrower Owner
When it snows we are at our best.  For 65 years we have provided service support for the Lawn equipment industry.  I am disappointed that our servicing of your Snowthrower did not live up to yours or our expectation.  Our hands are tied by manufactures and dealerships that don’t provide support after the sale.  In this case parts availability was the issue, this is a problem with servicing discount/home-center snowthrowers.  90% of the requests for Snowthrower service over the last 6 years are because of a corrosive additive that the EPA requires in fuel.  Below is a page from a project to write the History of our business.  An unedited unfinished copy can be found at this link.  www.leisersrental.blogspot.com

Toro introduced the first affordable Snowthrower for homeowner use in the mid 1950’s, and Leiser’s offered the first Toro snowthrowers to the homeowners of the Lehigh Valley. We sold and serviced Toro and Ariens Snowthrowers until 2006.  The Snowthrower business became unprofitable as the discount retailers under-priced us.  The discount retailers were able to do this by selling a stripped down version of what we sold and eliminating product support.  When you purchased a Snowthrower from Leiser’s It was assembled adjusted and delivered free of any charges.  Our customers were instructed on the Snowthrowers use and if our customer had a problem we would brave any snowstorm to take care of it. 

During a blizzard in 1966 Linden Street in Bethlehem was closed by 8’ snow drifts.  We cleared Linden st to a passable side street so our driver could make deliveries.  During the next few days our driver was out on the road past 10 or 11 at night delivering new machines picking up equipment that needed service.  Many times this meant clearing the street with the Snowthrower to get to the customers house.   Everyone else in our business was assembling new machines or repairing customer breakdowns this would include us kids and our friends. 

We understood our customers’ needs and knew the number of snowthrowers and the amount of parts we needed to stock, even if we didn't know when the next storm would hit.  We stocked more dollars in parts then most dealers stocked in equipment.  In 2006 the year we dropped Toro our retail parts inventory was almost $55,000.00.  We stocked 10 auger belts for every Snowthrower model we had sold the previous 20 years.  We were at our best during a snowstorm.  Something I still pride myself in.  One particular Snowstorm in the 70’s my father left the house in cross country skis and I rode my snowmobile on a 10 mile trek to get the store open.  My trip included several miles on a 4 lane highway.  For a large storm I would even spend the night in the store so it would open on time.

During the snowy winter of 1995 there were no snowthrowers available on the east coast.  Even the discount retailers were sold out.  We found Toro Snowthrowers in snow-less Utah dealerships and had them shipped in for our customers.


Times have changed.  We try to offer the same services to the owners of the discount house customers however we are limited.  We can only stock parts that we know we can sell.  Unlike The Toro Company we cannot return obsolete parts for credit.  Many times requests for parts are for models that we have never seen before, or equipment from companies that have shut down.  This year a customer requested service for a Red Chinese built Snowthrower sold online.  Chinese engines are even showing up on name brand machines in such large numbers, they forced the largest US producer of Snowthrower engines to quit engine and parts production.   

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Start here

I have been working on this story for years.  Over the last 6 months I have but a little more effort into the project.  What you are reading is a first draft.  You are sure to find spelling, grammar, and other errors.  

I have been collecting and scanning pictures and hope to add them to the text.  I also have 2 chapters I am still working on. 

Please leave comments and corrections.
Rob

rob@rentalbarn.com 

Introduction 1945 -1948

Introduction 1945 -1948

This is an introduction to a story about our family business.  I have not been actively involved in The Leiser’s Rental in Bethlehem since I purchased the Forks Township Store in 1995; however I have a financial investment in the Business’s success.  The reason I decided to take on this project is that the business is on very shaky ground.  The current management is the older of my two Sisters and one of her Sons.  Nether of them have any understanding of the business’s history.  Without the knowledge contained in this story they can’t save it.  They have ignored my help and continue to blame everyone else including me for the state of the business .  

The story was not written on how to be a success business.  There are plenty of good business books in the Library on that topic.  It is an interesting story that follows a very successful business my Father never planned on starting.   

This is a History of the Leiser Family Business.  The business my Father started in 1948 entered its 6th decade in 2008 without its Founder.  In my Father’s estate planning, my Father provided my Mother with a steady income that would allow her to afford a comfortable life.  He set up a foundation to take care of his hunting trophies, and restored a one room School House he owned.  My Father enrolled his Farm in a farmland preservation program, and my Father was very generous to his favorite charities.  As his health failed everything seemed to be in order however my Father would leave his business without a succession plan.

 Why? 

The obvious answer would be that my Father never expected the business to survive his involvement.  Some of his letters in the last years of his life would allude to this.  To the best of my ability I will draw the Map that will take my Father’s business from Dawn until Dusk.  The Map that I draw will show it was not all smooth sailing.  Along the road to any successful business there will be potholes, and dead ends, my Father’s business is no exception.    

This is a story of the business would start with my Father collecting bricks for the foundation long before the agreed to 1948 starting date.  During World War II my Father was training to be a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps.  When the war ended my Father would pursue his life love of flying.  Using the GI Bill to attended Spartan School of Aeronautics my Father would complete a course in Airport management.  He would then return home to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and search for a job.

There were not many jobs available in the Bethlehem area.  Local industries were still retooling from War production while trying to absorb the thousands of newly discharged solders.  My Father would take on some part time jobs. He would work for my Grandfather at the estate of a Bethlehem Steel executive.  For a time my Farther worked nights as a bartender and during the day he operated a handyman service.  My Grandfather was a nurseryman by trade; this background would set a direction for the handyman business. 
  
My Father purchased a used Rototiller and a surplus Jeep; he offered a custom tilling service.  In other words if you wanted a garden dug, you would hire my Father to dig it with his tilling machine.  My Father would also cut lawns and purchased a chain saw to cut trees.  With the chain saw he saw an opportunity to sell chain saws to farmers and contractors in the area.  My Father would spend the winter traveling the roads of the Lehigh Valley demonstrating the chain saw to farmers.  He had an innovative product; unfortunately as hard as he worked my father would sell only a few chain saws in those early years.  Most farmers could not justify the amount of labor saved compared to the cost of the saw.  The farmers were amazed by the speed but would confess to my Father that they had all winter to cut wood with a hand saw.  

The chain saw; the power chain saw had been developed in the early 1900’s it was a heavy expensive machine.  Even the lightest chain saw needed 2 strong men to operate. Wartime advancements in the production of aluminum castings would make the chain saw lighter cheaper and portable.  The first brand we sold was Mall, over the years we have sold and rented most major brands of chain saws.

The postwar chainsaw was an innovative product; however it was not a product that the business could be built around.  My Father never intended to open a retail store so the chain saw was just a product that would enhance his handyman business. 

My Father still envisioned finding a career in aviation; however with no aviation jobs available he would pursue his lifelong love of aviation as a hobby.  My Father was active in the Civil Air Patrol and a local Pilots Club.  He would be involved in flying all his life however aviation would always remain a hobby as he would grow his business.

Another business opportunity that would present itself to my Father was home building.  One of his friends convinced him to by a huge Army surplus Glider.  With the wooden crates and the wood recovered from the glider my Father would salvage enough lumber to build himself a house.  Few years later he would marry and build a second house, and then a third house.  These three houses still stand in the rear of my Grandfathers property. 

My Father would touch other business opportunities however the steady income from the handyman business would occupy his days. 

First decade… 1948 - 1958

First decade… 1948 - 1958

My Father acquired a Toro dealership in 1948.  I doubt he knew that he found a product to grow a business around.  Power lawnmowers were not new, Toro introduced a consumer sized powered Lawn Mower in the mid 1930's.  However in the 1930’s the suburbs hadn't been invented yet and with a limited market they were very expensive.  With the post war building boom came yards that were too large for push mowers.  A power lawnmower in 1950 was still expensive item.  A walk behind power mower could cost a homeowner 2 to 3 weeks’ salary.  As the demand for power lawnmowers increased prices would drop and the suburban sized power lawnmower moved from luxury item to a necessity.

It was never made clear how my Father and Toro got together, however with virtually no investment my Father would be given exclusive rights to sell Toro lawn equipment in the 2 counties that comprised the Lehigh Valley. This was postwar retailing, where business relationships were consummated with a handshake rather than a contract.  My Father would go on to slice up his territory by wholesaling Toro products to other retailers within his territory.

The lawnmower necessitated a change in my Fathers handyman business. The lawnmower was not an item he could sell out of the back of his Jeep.  The lawnmower would need a showroom.  My Father installed some large windows in my Grandfather’s garage, and Donald W Leiser Sales and Service was born. As the lawnmower business grew the handyman business would be phased out. Toro lawnmowers would be the single product that would support my Fathers new business.

Location is always very important and establishing the business in the center of Northampton county would give my Father’s business access to a strong middle class.  The Lehigh Valley was the home of Mack Truck, Bethlehem Steel, and Ingersoll Rand.  The Lehigh Valley’s many college's that included Lehigh, Lafayette, Muhlenberg, Moravian and others would get a boost from the GI Bill.  This would help grow a, middle and upper middle class community with disposable income.  The town of Bethlehem was built on the side of a mountain. Between downtown Bethlehem and my Grandfather’s house would be miles of flat land ready for suburban development.

Even with the opening of the retail store this would not set my Father on a lifelong career path.  He would find other business opportunities to explore. Dad’s lifelong love of the outdoors would start another business. My Parents had a season long campsite at Promised Land State Park in the Pocono Mountains. When the State of Pennsylvania started leasing building sites my Father would lease a site and build a cabin.  During construction Dad would watch the neighbor struggle in his cabin building project.  In helping the neighbor with his cabin my Father would notice the neighbor’s lack of building skills. This would give him the idea of building cabin shells. He would install the foundation, erect the floor, walls, and roof and the owner would finish off the inside. While this would be a mostly weekend and off season business Dad would find customers for his building services.

My Father had only completed a few of these shells, when back to back hurricanes spawned flooding would devastate the Pocono Mountains in 1955. The flooding would kill hundreds of people; wash out most of the bridges.  Dad would fly my mother and me up to the cabin site he was working on to check on it. The floods had pick up the enter lumber pile and push it against the foundation without the loss of a single board.  He would finish that cabin; however the demand for cabins in the Pocono’s had died. 

Another product that would be a stepping stone in the growth and diversity of the business would be the backhoe. Today the backhoe loader is now found on every construction and landscaping project, however before World War II the backhoe loader as we know it did not exist. Digging a basement or digging a trench was accomplished by hand or with a “Steam Shovel”.  The prewar power shovels needed to be hauled to a construction site in pieces and assembled before use. Moving a power shovel from one job to another could take days.

My Father would start by buying a Shawnee or Pippin backhoe kit assembling the kit, and installing it on the customers tractor. Now a digger could be driven to a job site used and then driven to the next job. This would lead to Dad acquiring a tractor dealership, to supply tractors to install backhoe kits on.  The tractor dealership wer would acquire was International Harvester Industrial Tractors. With International Harvester industrial equipment Dad had a full line of construction equipment from garden tractors to bulldozers.

The tractors and construction equipment necessitated a move out of my Grandfather’s garage.  In 1955 Dad would purchase 3 acres at the intersection of Linden St and Macada Rd in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and move the business ½ mile South of my Grandfather’s garage. The building was built mostly for lawn equipment business, however the showroom floor was reinforced enough to hold the weight of a bulldozer.
As the businesses first decade was coming to an end the business was still evolving, however it seemed to be on a solid foundation.  From a starting point of a chain saw in the back of a Jeep, to the 44 x 48’ building the business was a success.  




My Father hadn't yet hired a full time employee, as extra help needed, it would be provided by my Mother, my Grandfather or Friends.  Every Friday Mom would drive a truck to Philadelphia with a check to purchase replacements for the mowers that had been sold during the week.  Dad would schedule deliveries and service calls for evenings so he could operate the store during the day.  This was truly Mom and Pop.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Picture Link.

I plan on collecting sorting through and posting pictures.

Current photo links

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/rentalbarn/sets/72157640423879753/

Pictures from my Toro Collection are scattered through the picture page.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rentalbarn/sets/

Second decade… 1958 - 1967

Second decade… 1958 - 1967

The second decade would start with continued growth mostly on the lawn and garden side of the business. The lawn mower business continued to grow and with Toro, my Father had a manufacture that also offered commercial landscape equipment.  Some of our commercial customers would be the City of Bethlehem, and Bethlehem School District, Bethlehem Steel, Lehigh University and Moravian College. These customers would also purchase International Harvester Tractors to tow Toro Mowers. My Father still hadn't needed to hire a full time employee.  He would hire or borrow friends when he needed extra help.

The backhoe and heavy equipment business would start to take a back seat as my Father’s one man operation didn’t allow him to make the outside sales contacts needed to grow the construction equipment business.  The equipment business was still profitable, primarily because International Harvester did not have equipment stocking requirements.  We stocked a backhoe, Farmall Cub and the T340 tracked loader.  The T340 was International Harvesters smallest tracked loader and was my Father’s favorite toy.  It was used in all of the building projects and it was also his favorite snow plow.  When one T340 was sold other one would be ordered.  I was about 8 when I would be taught to operate the T340.  For an 8 year old using the manual steering clutches was a chore.  The T340 required two hands on the stick to make a turn. 

A T340 would find its way into the rental fleet.  Moving the machine from job to job would be a problem since we didn’t have a trailer large enough.  My Father would solve this by loading the 3 ½ ton machine in the back of our dump truck and find a bank to unload it.  One of our customers unfamiliar with the dump truck would jump the clutch and the bull dozer would be dumped onto the main street in downtown Bethlehem.  Dad would find the street dented and the loader undamaged; and would drive it back to the store.    

1958 my Father would introduce a new product to the Lehigh Valley the “Riding Lawn Tractor”. The first lawn tractors would be introduced in the Midwest and move east.  In 1958 we would acquire dealerships for Bantam and Wheel Horse.  The Bantam was a very simple tractor with no powered implements. It could push a plow or pull a mower and that was it.  The 1958 model Wheel Horse was introduced with more than a dozen attachments.  The Wheel Horse could plow snow, mow grass with 3 different mowing attachments, plow, plant, and cultivate a garden.  The Bantam tractors we sold were all traded back for Wheel Horse Tractors.  After our initial shipment of Bantams, the line would be dropped, however they would not go away.  Unsalable we would strip the traded in tractors for usable engines and tires.  The last, never sold, new Bantam Tractor is still with us.

The start of the Rental Business; my Father's interest in the rental business started in 1959 when he read an article about the rental business in Changing Times Magazine.  The consequences of this decision wouldn't be known for almost a decade, however it would take the business decades further than ether equipment sales or lawn and garden would have.

The Equipment Rental business was another new type of business which found acceptance during the post war business boom.  The popularity of renting tools and equipment started on the West Coast in the late 1940's and was moving East.   After reading the magazine article my Father would travel to Long Beach, California to learn more about the rental business at the American Rental Association's yearly Convention.

On this trip Dad would visit some California rental stores and learned the business by talking to the West Coast rental pioneers.  My Father returned with an enthusiasm for the rental business.  After returning home he did a quick inventory; the results were we had enough tools and equipment to open a well-stocked rental store.  With the equipment we owned from our building projects and the lawn and construction equipment we would only need to purchase few tools to fill out the inventory needs.  There was an old house on the business’s property, my Father would knock out some walls add some windows, and Bethlehem Rental Service would open for business in the spring of 1960.  



The next building project would be to move the Rental Department into the main building.  During the winter of 1961 an addition would be added to the main building and a connected Rental Store would open that spring.  Along with the rental equipment a paint department and some hardware and housewares were added.

The sales side the business would gradually move from lawn and construction equipment into a full service lawn and garden center with chemicals, seeds, fertilizers, tools and plants.  Another unusual product was custom mixed grass seeds.  We would have our own mixes or mix to customers specifications we could even add clover seed to the mix for customers who didn't consider clover a weed.  We had grass plots where our customers could see samples of our grass seed mixtures.  We even had a Bent Grass putting green with a Toro underground sprinkler system and an every other day mowing schedule. 

Soon after the rental business opened it was clear that the business could no longer be a one man operation.  By 1961 my Father would hire his first full time employees.  As the second decade continued more full time and part time employees would be added.  During this period my Father’s time in the shop and on the road would come to an end, as he seldom had time to leave the sales floor.

The 1960 rental store would not be recognized by today’s rental industry peers.  Many of the tools that are stocked in a general rental store today hadn't been invented in 1960.  Trailers were the most popular items we rented in the early 1960's.  We rented local and one way trailers and trucks for moving.  We would also rent whatever vehicle we had in the lot.  This would include pick-up, dump trucks, and cars.  For a time there was an early 50's Plymouth convertible that was popular, and a little English Ford sports car that could be rented for a nice day in the country. 

The insurance companies didn't completely understand what the rental business was all about; neither did the Department of Transportation.  We would just slap a dealer plate on whatever the customer wanted to rent and down the street it went.  For one rental request in the late 60's we would mount something called an Automatic Teller in place of the side doors on an Econoline Van.  The Bank that rented the van would travel around to shopping centers and give demos.  After the ATM demo the telephone company rented the same van and used it inside the Bethlehem Steel Plant.  It was returned a year later with 50 miles added to the odometer.

Hand power tools were very popular rental items at the time. Today for less than 3 hours wages a person can purchase a power circular saw, the same type of saw in 1960 would cost more than a week’s salary.  This made the Rental concept easy to understand and sell.  Another popular rental item was camping equipment.  We rented everything from sleeping bags, cots, to coolers, stoves and tents, pop-up and travel trailers.   Camping trailers would occupy our Fridays as trailers were returned Friday mornings; they were quickly cleaned, prepped and sent out Friday afternoons.  Friday afternoons were the busiest as trailer hitches and light harnesses had to be installed.  For the larger travel trailers we needed to install load distributing hitches and temporary electric brake controllers.  At one point we had a dozen camping trailers in our fleet.  One building addition would be a covered area where we could install hitches, and wire lights on two customers at once.  We even installed custom hitches and had more than 100 custom hitches in stock.  By the early 1960's International Harvester had sold off its appliance business and with the exception of the Cub Series had no other products for the homeowner market.  In 1965 International Harvester approached the Industrial Lawn & Garden Dealers like us with an ultimatum to “Get Big or Get Out”.  The $35,000.00 investment in inventory and a requirement to add a full time on the road salesman was too much for my Father and almost every other International Harvester Industrial Dealer to handle.  By the end of 1965 we would sell off the remaining inventory and return parts.

The “Get Big or Get Out” program was so popular on the “Get Out” side among dealers; International Harvester lost most of the industrial dealers.  International Harvester Industrial would be so crippled by this program that they would need to open company owned stores for industrial equipment.

By the Mid 1960's the rental business was doing well; my Father had the cash needed to expand into new product lines.  We would add some expensive new products to the rental inventory.  We would add products to our rental fleet that were not available anywhere else in the area.  Some of the new items would include diamond saws and drills, airless painting equipment, and a rough terrain high reach fork lift.  Occasionally the fork lift would be displayed with one of the employees cars lifted into the air.  We had the largest most diverse rental inventory outside of Philadelphia or New York.

The Mid 60's would also see the start of the party rental business.  Rental chairs and tables had been in the inventory since the rental business started along with a collection of green canvas tents that we used for our fair displays and open houses.  When it came down to adding china and flatware to the rental inventory we purchased heavy green edged china from a closed down restaurant.  Dad would keep an eye out for restaurant closings as the party business increased.  Washing would be in a wash tub and the unwrapped dinnerware would be stored in the warehouse.  The party business grew faster than restaurant failures, and customers started asking for matching china, glassware and flatware.  1966 would see a major investment in party.  All new gold edged china, matching flatware, and glassware was purchased.  We also added 30’ x 60' blue and white party tent, and table linens. 

Erecting the 30 x 60 tent required 3 people and in the early years this was most of the staff.  My Mother would take my siblings along with drinks and snacks for the crew.  By the time the center poles went up the neighbors had gathered.  Yes they had all seen circus and fair tents however not a blue and white stripped tent being set up in someone’s back yard.

The next step in the party business was to add dish washing and laundry facilities (sort of).  Our house was unusual in that we lived in the basement for a few years until the main floor of the house was complete.  My Father had purchased and installed a used kitchen with a dishwasher in the basement for this temporary kitchen. This basement kitchen would be used for dish washing, after busy weekends both of my Mothers dishwashers would be used to keep up with the work load.  Unable to find a quality laundry service for the linen's we would bring the linen service into our house. 

By 1967 and a few more additions the rentals, sales, parts and service departments would be handled at the same counter.  The storage garages between the rental and sales entrance was tripled in size by pushing it out over top of the shop. The original rental store was now party rental storage and display.  The new addition was used for lawn equipment display, swimming pools and supplies, and the hardware department.  The original store was for seasonal and ½ of the trailer hitch area was converted to rental equipment storage.  If this sounds complicated making sure every door was locked was even more complicated.

One of our largest investments was to purchase a Cash Register that could handle some of the accounting for the rental business.  One of my Fathers hunting buddies work for NCR.   In 1967 my Fathers friend and NCR designed a cash register that could record and subtract security deposits.  The Cash register would also allow us to separate our sales, rentals, and repairs into a 12 separate categories.  We still had to manually figure sales tax however; we could now separate rentals from sales and give our customers a printed receipt.  The cash register weighed 220 pounds and cost $3500.00.  Eventually we would have others built as we opened stores.  This was a huge expense considering the $12,000 cost to computerize 2 stores in 1990.       

During the 1960's our busy spring season started in late February when a railroad carload of peat moss (Garden Mulch) would be parked at a railroad siding about 3 miles away.  From that event it was a mad rush with everything that rolled to get the rail car unloaded as quickly as possible.  Since the 40 lb bags could be handled by a 10 year old I was included.  From then tractor trailers loaded with Scotts Lawn Products would arrive. The garden tools, lawn mowers, and tractors for the season would arrive be assembled and moved to the showroom. 

By early fall it was time to change the seasonal displays. In place of the mowers were snowmobiles, snow throwers and snow shovels.  The mower decks were removed from the lawn tractors and replaced with snow plows and snow throwers.  Bird feeders and bird food would replace fertilizer and garden chemicals.  We would display several hundred Bird Feeders as we stocked bird feeders from 50 different manufactures. The bird department was my Grandfather’s responsibility.  As soon as the bird feeders were in place we would set up the Christmas department.  In the days before Big Box retailing we were the largest Christmas Store in the Christmas City.  We even ran a lighting contest where first prize was a Toro snow thrower.  Judging was handled by family and friends piling into the Station Wagons driving around town and then comparing notes.

After Christmas the leftovers were packed away, and the rest of the Bird feeders were put on display.  As February rolled around the railroad would again call to inform us that the load of Peat Moss was rolling into the Station.

Traveling around with a chainsaw in the back of a jeep quickly became impractical as the business grew.   My Father would start setting up displays at local fairs and farm events.  At fairs we would find an unlimited number of people who wanted to touch and sit on our products.  It was easy to draw a prospect into our display when junior found a tractor seat to sit on. These country fairs were so profitable Dad would purchase his own tent and even take our marketing outside of the Lehigh Valley.

As our products changed so did the events we attended and the equipment we displayed.  For us kids we got to attend all the big events.  Depending what products we were promoting we could find an event to display it.  Agricultural Fairs, Sports Shows, Home Shows, Mall Shows, Bridal Shows.  They started to become time consuming and expensive proposition to pay for the display space set up tear down and deal with the damage.  We would cut the list of events we attended and do our own spring fair.

Every April the tents would go up next to the store and the equipment was moved under the tents.  My Mother would put weeks into preparing and freezing Barbecue from whatever animal my Father shot the previous fall.  The back page of the local paper was covered with a full page color Ad. The Factory Reps would come for the weekend and a WWII searchlight would be hired.  All of us, the cousins, and the neighborhood kids would be given grey shirts and cowboy hats and watch as all hell would break loose.

In 1966 “Ortho” our garden chemical line introduced a lawn fertilizer with a small hand held spreader called the Whirlybird.  With the purchase of a bag of fertilizer and a spreader ($20.00 for the Package) the customer would receive a Helicopter ride.  The Helicopter landed in our front yard and for 2 days was kept busy providing 3 minute rides.

Those were the good old days before lawyers, noise ordinances, and annoying neighbors.






On the sales side there was so much going on beyond the core of Lawn Equipment and Rentals but if you couldn't find it anywhere we had it or could get it.  We had 3 hardware wholesalers visit almost on a weekly basis.  The salesman would walk the isles and mark down what they thought we should have. At that point my Father or Grandfather would review the list and cross off what we didn't need.  One particular ingenious Salesman would always send items we hadn’t ordered, knowing there was a good chance that my Father would keep the merchandise rather than sending it back.

We were the area's first, or biggest for so many products, our competition was always playing catch-up. We had the best products best service and competitive pricing.  As the second decade would come to an end as a new type of retailing would take hold in the Lehigh Valley, as “Two Guys” from Harrison New Jersey would bring the concept of Big Box discount retailing to or area.

Despite the local Blue Law’s we would be open Sundays during the busy spring season.  City officials and the police would mostly ignore us because we were only open for a few hours in the afternoon and only for 2 or 3 months.  The Two Guys store would ignore the rule completely.  Paying the $25.00 fine each Sunday was insignificant compared to the amount of Sunday sales.  We would continue Sunday sales and Thursday, Friday shopping night’s through the 1970’s. 

The odd and unusual from our retail products we carried during the second decade.   Pedal Boats, Sail Boats, Boats that converted to campers, Boats that converted into car top carriers.  We were a Winchester dealer so my Father could buy guns for himself and his friends at wholesale prices.  We sold plastic pink flamingos, concrete lawn ornaments and bird baths.  Someone once stole 7’ 300lb Indian women; no one ever stole the 500lb concrete bear.  We sold and rented wrought iron lawn furniture.   We could order custom outdoor lamp posts and custom cast iron address markers for the lampposts and mail boxes.  We tried hardware and housewares we also tried above and in-ground swimming pools. We sold Fiberglass garden pools and fountains long before the water feature would become a popular landscape addition.  We sold and installed underground sprinkler systems.

We always had powered toys of some type.  After the original rental store was moved my Father started selling racing go carts there was a limited market and when the local track closed that line was dropped. During the 1960's kids would use old lawn mower engines to power homemade Go Carts and Mini Bikes this spawned a market for clutches, chains, tires, and other parts we also sold Mini Bike frames and complete Mini Bikes. We also sold the little Model T's the parading Shriner's refer to as Tin Lizzies.  My very first job at 7 or 8 years old in the business would be to remove engines from old reel mowers get them running and sell them to the neighborhood kids.  

Mini bike supplies made our store a popular spot for the kids, day and night.  If a customer’s mower was mistakenly left out over night the engine would disappear by morning.  Another powered toy we introduced to market was Snowmobiles.  The first snow machines were 20 mph 700 lb. monsters made by a company called Foxtrac.  Not only did we bring the first Snowmobiles to the Lehigh Valley we were one of the first Snowmobile Dealers in the Mid-Atlantic region.  When our snowmobiles were displayed outside people would pull off the road to see one or sit on it and have a picture taken.  When it snowed the grass demo yard would be the snowmobile demo yard.  Mostly it was a chance for a passerby to use the demo as only something to brag about.

Our first snowmobile would find its way to the front page of the local paper.  The snowmobiles would attract attention when we replaced the skis with wheels and showed it off at our Spring Fair.  That first snowmobile would get plenty of attention but never find a home. It was rented a few times and has been sitting in a shed since the early 1970’s.  Our next brand would be Ski-doo, then AMF Ski Daddlier, Wheel Horse, Ariens and a few others until we acquired a Polaris Dealership in 1971


1965 Foxtrac Snowmobile

By the late 1960's the Wild West of retailing was just about over.  My Father would be denied the permit needed to add the umpteenth addition to the store.  By 1967 the store had 3 front doors on 3 different levels, 3 side doors, at least 10 garage doors not counting the huge 3 car garage at the house that was also used for storage.  Our building had 2 separate attics and 2 levels of basements. It was heated with 3 oil burners and was powered with one main overworked fuse box. Somewhere among the 6 levels and 7 interior doors was one toilet and a sink.


By the mid 1960's my Father was planning to open a second store.  Dad found a suitable location had it rezoned and acquired the permits.  He would have the steel delivered and start excavating before all the appeals were exhausted.  Mid foundation the neighbors appealed the rezoning and this would stop the project for over a year.