Summers Trucking employees meet new owners: themselves

By on July 31, 2019

Summers Trucking employees gathered for breakfast Saturday morning at the Ephrata American Legion. After ham and eggs and all the fixings, the 91 employees learned that the Summers family owners, Becky, John and Ken, had transferred their shares in the business to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).

With that move, the Summers management triad made those 91 employees and their vacationing co-workers part owners of the business.

Before she got around to the big announcement, Becky talked briefly about the company history, and how they got to where they are today.
The company was born in 1946 at the Gerhart Avenue home of Lester R. and Dorothy Summers. Their modest home-based business was a part-time venture organized to haul sand and gravel for

Lester’s employer, the Kurtz Concrete block plant in Ephrata. Lester never worked full-time for his trucking business. He continued working for the block plant until his retirement after 50 years of service.

Lester and Dorothy’s grandchildren — the three officers — now manage the 73-year-old family enterprise, which has become a major presence in the business of hauling really big things made of concrete.

In 1957, Lester and Dorothy incorporated the business, and by the early Sixties, it had grown to the point where full-time management and office staff were needed. Harold and Lester, Jr. — who went by Sonny — stepped in and made the business their careers. Harold managed the trucking business, while Sonny managed Maryland Sand and Gravel, a quarry that Lester, Sr., and Dorothy had bought along the way.

Becky recounted some interesting twists in the company history. There was an airplane hangar at 106 Garden Spot Road that served for a time as the company safety office and training room. It was later changed to a horse stable and became the site of locally popular Western-style horse shows. She recalled watching the shows with her siblings and cousins, but not actually participating.

During the late 70s and early 80s, Becky, Ken and John were still students but doing chores around the place. They pulled weeds, painted, cleaned the shop, tied down loads and ran errands. Ken joined the company full-time in 1982 after graduating from Penn State. Becky, after graduating from St. Leo University, worked as an auditor for the government before joining the business in 1997. John, a Juniata College graduate, worked in the banking industry and in Armstrong management before he joined his sister and cousin on the Summers Trucking team.

In 1988, Becky and Ken bought a troubled New Jersey trucking business, turned it around and eventually moved the office to Ephrata and into the corporate family. In 2007, Becky, Ken and John purchased Summers Trucking from their parents. The following year, 2008, was a banner year for the company. The business had evolved over the years into a successful hauler of large precast concrete components for projects like parking garages, bridges and stadiums. They were and continue to be a big player in their specialized niche market.

John Summers, left, and other Summers Trucking office workers distributed packets to their new company co-owners at a breakfast Saturday morning at the Ephrata American Legion. The packets contained information about the company’s new employee stock ownership plan, plus up-to-date information about each worker’s retirement account, plus a bonus check. All that plus ham and eggs.  Photos by Dick Wanner.

They became the house carrier for Kurtz Precast as that business evolved from its cement block beginnings. And when the High family bought the Kurtz business, Summers Trucking became the house carrier for High Concrete.

In January of 2009, the third-generation owners moved to a new headquarters half-a-mile west on Garden Spot Road, fulfilling one of Harold Summers’ long-time dreams.

Then, In April of 2009, the economy tanked, the trucking industry had more trucks parked that it had on the road, and Summers Trucking was facing tougher times than it had ever faced before.

They kept it together, Becky said, because of their dedicated and hard-working employees. Today, she said, the company is in the best shape it’s ever been in.

But the management triad heading up the company today is fully adult. They’re not pulling weeds and watching horse shows. The future looks bright for Summers Trucking, and at some point family members in any successful business will want to take a step back.

Here’s how Becky closed her remarks at Saturday’s breakfast:

“Our philosophy has not changed since the companies were founded. We want to be the best at what we do. We want to provide the people that work here (our extended family) the best possible pay and benefits, and we want to remain a good partner to the community in which we work and live.

“When Harold died in 2017, Ken, John and I started thinking about our futures and your future — we wanted the Summers Trucking legacy and our philosophy to continue. We thought we could live forever and keep doing what we are doing, becoming better and stronger as the years passed.

Summers Trucking employees — almost the entire workforce — got together for breakfast Saturday morning at the Ephrata American Legion. After breakfast, the 91 employees present learned they and their vacationing co-workers had just become — through an employee stock ownership plan — new owners of the company they work for.

“It is evident that we can’t be here forever — Ken lives off of cigarettes and slim Jms, I overindulge and John…well John went bald after he started working here. Eventually we realized we would need to make changes in the Summers Trucking operations.

“How do we do that and maintain the best group of employees with the best possible benefits and a force to be reckoned with in the trucking industry? We had to think about selling the company.

“With that being said…we are very pleased to introduce you to the new owners. They are sitting across from you at your table. They are sitting to your left and to your right. Ken, John and I have contributed all of our stock to the employee stock ownership plan.

“We, along with all of you are now the owners of Summers Trucking.”

Dick Wanner is a reporter/photographer for the Ephrata Review. He can be reached at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com. 

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