Crane’s Outdoor Power Equipment
Owner: Rich Crane Jr.,
partner is Todd MacNeil
Employees: 6 full time, 2 part time
Annual Sales: $2.7 million
Sales Mix: 55% wholegoods, 20% parts, 25% service
Customer Sales Mix: 70% commercial, 30% consumer
Shop Labor Rate: $75 an hour
Major Lines: Bri-Mar, Fisher, Haulmark, Mahindra, Scag, Shindaiwa, Simplicity, Stihl
In upstate Connecticut, Crane’s Outdoor Power Equipment has a slightly different view of things than a lot of businesses in today’s struggling economy. With a newly renovated facility that leaves customers saying “wow” and employees wondering how they ever functioned before, the team at Crane’s is as excited as it’s ever been.
There’s been a lot going on these past couple of years. Rich Crane Jr. assumed control of the 50-year-old dealership in late-2007. The extensive facility renovation was completed in April 2008. Then came the burgeoning economic and credit crisis—not necessarily the ideal time to be making significant investments in a power equipment business.
But the staff at Crane’s didn’t bat an eye. Maybe that’s because everyone was too busy carrying the commercially focused dealership to record sales of $2.7 million in 2008.
Crane’s Outdoor Power Equipment is off to a roaring start again this year. Another punishing winter has left their contractor customers with good cash flows from all the snow pushing and ice cleanups they’ve been doing. The new store, an impressive sight from the highly traveled Route 7 the building sits on, is drawing more residential clientele. And a growing “New Yorker” customer segment is creating new opportunity for tractor sales.
Current owner Rich Jr. and business partner Todd MacNeil just hope the positive trend continues. They know it’s not going to be easy given the current economic environment. “It’s been tougher to get credit approvals for contractors, even guys who’ve been customers of ours for years,” Rich Jr. points out. “But usually we can explain the situation to our finance providers and get something worked out,” MacNeil adds.
MY HOW THINGS CHANGE
Fortunately, Crane’s Outdoor Power Equipment does have many long-standing commercial accounts—something the dealership has been focused on for the past eight years. But the business had an entirely different persona in the early days.
Founded as a home-based business in 1957 by Stanley Segalla, brother Don Segalla took partnership with Stanley’s son Bob in 1963 and built a new store in the current location. “We did a lot of snowmobile business in the 1960’s and 70’s … you know, back when there was actually good money in it,” Don relates. “We also sold and repaired a lot of consumer lawn and garden equipment. We had a nice business.”
Don and Bob then sold to their neighbors, Rich Crane Sr., wife Valerie and son Rich Jr., in 1992. The dealership (Segalla’s Lawnmower Shop) then came to be known as Crane’s Outdoor Power Equipment as Rich Jr. and family, formerly landscape contractors, came on board. Don continued to work in the business and still does today. In 1993 they were joined by Todd MacNeil, who’d been working at another area dealership. Rich Jr. knew MacNeil from his days as a landscaper buying parts.
Before long the dealership gradually got out of the snowmobile business. “We wanted to focus on equipment and products people needed, as opposed to just wanted,” MacNeil says. “We also wanted to start catering to the commercial market more,” Rich Jr. adds. Since the mid-90’s there’d been an explosion of landscape contractors in upstate Connecticut. “We’d been focusing on this market since 2000, looking for any piece of equipment or product that would help us fill the needs of landscape contractors,” Rich Jr. says.