It’s not very often that you meet a woman who specializes in selling trailers – especially big heavy-haul units like detachable double drops, hydraulic low boys, step decks and extendable trailers, not to mention piggyback forklifts, as well. As an owner of Country Supply, Inc. in Peotone, Illinois, Holly Hale and her company sells and services all sorts of trailers and forklifts, in addition to offering a huge inventory of trailer parts, cargo control products, lighting and safety items – they even have a fabrication shop. And Holly isn’t just some silent owner, she is an integral part of the day-to-day operations of Country Supply, and having grown up in the business, she knows her stuff. But, to appreciate all of what this company has to offer, you must first go back and trace its’ interesting roots.
In 1959 the city of Chicago was expanding, and because of this expansion, farmer Wilbert J. Hupe decided it was time to sell his farm in Homewood, IL and move a little farther south. He bought 220 acres outside of Peotone, IL and moved his family there. Shortly after the move, he started Evergreen Sod Farm on this new, rural property. A few years later, his son’s, Dean and Roger, joined him in the sod business. Taking advantage of the fact that they were located close enough to the city to deliver, but not in it, the sod farm continued to grow. In 1964 the company was incorporated.
In the beginning, this was a very labor intensive business – all of the sod was cut with a walk-behind machine, and then it had to be loaded on straight trucks by hand and unloaded the same way at the final delivery site. This was a very time-consuming process. But, as they say, necessity is the mother of all invention. Working closely with Princeton Forklifts, Dean helped them develop piggyback forklifts that could be easily attached to the backs of their trucks, taken with them, and used to unload the sod at the job sites. This new way to unload on-site opened up the business and allowed them to begin using bigger trailers – and bigger trailers meant it would take fewer trips to complete a job.
As other sod farmers saw the benefits of this new equipment being developed, it created a huge demand. It was easy to see how much time and labor costs could be cut by letting the machines do all of the heavy work. Dean and Roger saw the opportunity and began selling equipment to other farmers, which lead the brothers to become one of the first Transcraft trailer dealers in the late 1960s.
The equipment sales grew so much that the company accountant finally told them that they had to create a new business and keep the two separate. At that point, Country Supply was created, which was later incorporated in 1975. There were now two businesses – Evergreen Sod Farm and Country Supply – and both were ran out of the same office for years. Eventually, Country Supply became the main business, and the sod farm was slowly phased out. However, sod was still grown on the farm, which surrounds Country Supply’s location, until last year when it was finally turned over to grain crops.
I met Holly Hale about five years ago and I was very impressed by her knowledge of heavy-haul trailers. I knew that this was a family business, and even back then, when I first met her, I thought there might be an interesting story here to tell. Holly’s dad is Dean and Roger is her uncle. For about ten years, Holly worked as a waitress at a truck stop. Working at the truck stop helped Holly with the shyness she had in her younger years. Then, in 1991, she went to work for Melco Transfer – a trucking company that rented space from her dad and uncle.
In the early days of computers, Roger could see the benefits of the computer, just as Dean had the vision of how much the new equipment could save the company in labor costs and time. Holly’s job at Melco was to get the company automated on the computer system they had purchased a couple of years before. They had decided that it was time for them to discontinue doing everything by hand, and finally get a computerized system up and running.
In 1996, Holly’s dad’s secretary took a week off, so Holly came in to help at Country Supply. During this time, she got a call from Tacho who worked for Walter Payton, the famous running back for the Chicago Bears, asking if they wanted to sell him a trailer. At the time Holly didn’t know anything about trailer sales, but she was pretty sure that they wanted to sell him a trailer. This was her first sale – a 35-ton Trail King hydraulic tail trailer sold to Walter Payton Power Equipment. When asked if they would deliver it, the answer was, “Yes, for a fee or to meet Walter” – and the deal was done.
Holly went along with her brother Louis to make the delivery, and they both got to meet Walter in person. Holly remembers Payton, who was 43 at the time, doing a back-flip up onto the trailer! His nickname was “Sweetness” – not a name I would attribute to a star football player, but Holly said he was really nice. While chatting, they discovered they both had daughters named Brittany who were about the same age. In doing a little side research about Walter Payton, I found that Coach Ditka described him as the greatest football player he had ever seen, and an even greater human being.
Shortly after that first trailer sale, Holly quit working for Melco Transfer and went to work for Country Supply (Melco Transfer still occupies space in another building on their site). This time, she used her computer skills to automate Country Supply, while also learning how to sell trailers – a business she worked hard to learn and has become very successful at.
Summit Seed occupied the building that Country Supply occupies today until 2004, when they moved to Manteno, IL. From the time Holly started working for Country Supply until 2004, her office had once been her bedroom before the family moved out of the house when she was seven years old. In 2000, Holly bought out her dad’s interest in the company and she became a partner with her uncle Roger. Like her father and grandfather before her, she looks at building the business and finding ways to work smarter.
Very involved in her company’s industry, Holly served on the board of the National Trailer Dealer Association (NTDA) for six years before becoming president in 2010. She was the 3rd woman to hold the post. In 2010, the board, along with Holly, changed the management of the organization with a positive outcome for the association. The NTDA offers a broad spectrum of trailer dealer resources to their members, including networking, information, educational programs, and more – I looked at their website (www.ntda.org) and was amazed at all the things they offer. Throughout the year there are free webinars and seminars about important topics relevant to the trailer sales industry, there is an annual convention, advertising opportunities and discounts, a newsletter, and so much more. Check out their website, and if you are a trailer dealer interested in joining, please call Executive Director Gwen Brown at 800-800-4552.
Country Supply, Inc. is proud to have a few longtime employees, including Steve Werkmeister, a salesman who has been with the company for 15 years, and Stacy Wimberly, who has been the company’s secretary and Holly’s right hand for the past 16 years. Paul Hale, Holly’s son, started working in the shop when he was just 13 years old. Today, at 28 years old, he has worked in just about every department over the years, and has now worked his way up to Shop Manager.
Offering a complete line of flatbeds and heavy-haul trailers, Country Supply, Inc. is still a Transcraft dealer, selling their flatbeds and drop decks. They also sell Trail King hydraulic low boys, double drop expandables, hydraulic tails, 2-axle and 3-axle drops. From small construction tag trailers up to the largest heavy-haul multi configurations and flip axles, they sell them all, including lightweight Reitnouer aluminum flats, Doonan drop decks and flatbeds, XL Specialized mechanical detachable double drops, fixed neck double drops and extendable trailers and, of course, the Princeton forklifts that Holly’s father Dean was so instrumental in developing.
With decades of experience, this family operation is truly a one-stop shop for all of your heavy-haul and flatbed trailer needs. And, with easy access off I-57 just south of Chicago in Peotone, IL and lots of room to park, feel free to stop by and visit Country Supply, Inc. the next time you are in their neighborhood. You can also call them at 708-258-6900 or visit them online at www.country-supply.com. And, if you have questions or need a trailer, ask Holly, because this girl knows what she is talking about!