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Bay State’s Brookside Equipment Keeps It All in the Family

Fri May 08, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

Fifteen years ago, a family of auto parts and auto repair dealers left vehicles of one sort of metal behind for bigger vehicles of heavier iron; and with it came a better way of life.

In the mid 1980s, Roger and Dan McHugh were running Brookside Auto Parts of Orange, Mass., and Brookside Auto Body of Athol, Mass.

They bought a couple of old farm tractors, sold them; bought another couple of tractors, sold them; then a backhoe and sold that; then a dozer, etc., all on the side.

In the early 1990s, heavy iron side work began to snowball and expand to the point where the brothers decided they would rather deal in the heavy equipment business than the auto business.

In 1994, the McHugh brothers officially founded Brookside Equipment, but began running out of showroom and acreage at their auto body site.

In 2001, the growing used equipment dealership had overgrown its location, so Roger and Dan decided to purchase a small piece of land in Phillipston, a small town just off Route 2 in central Massachusetts. The site provided adequate space for their machines, a new office and a new shop — approximately 15 acres with about 150 pieces of equipment for sale on it.

The site also provided great visibility along Route 2, which runs from Boston to New York State.

Still run by Roger and Dan McHugh, Brookside is the definition of a complete family business, as sister Patricia has been the company’s longtime office manager and younger brother Tim, along with Roger’s nephew, Matt, works in sales. Brother Ken is one of the truck drivers and nephew, Trevor, manages the yard and shop.

All but two employees — truck drivers Ray Canney and Lee Melanson — are family, and both of those drivers have been longtime friends of Roger and Dan.

Immersed in Community

Laughing, Dan cited the advantages of working with family as “absolutely nothing.” But in reality, all the McHugh family could think of are the positives.

“Because it is family, we believe our employees care more about the image of the company than an employee who works for a company that maybe has never even met his or her boss,” said Matt McHugh. “Employees tend to look out for each other and the company as a whole more because it’s family, as opposed to looking out for just themselves.

“All of us here, whether owner, salesman or truck driver, have the common goal of doing what it takes to sell machines, but at the same time, we all want our customers to feel happy that they did business with us,” he added. “I guess the best analogy is that of a ’team’ atmosphere where the sum is greater than the parts.”

Without question, being a family-run business is an advantage when selling in the local community, especially in a small town area.

“With so many family members involved in the business, usually, we have ties to our local customers that go back further than the birth of Brookside Equipment itself,” added Matt. “If one of us goes out to a local restaurant, or bar on a weekend, it’s almost a guarantee to bump into someone we know through the business.”

Sells All Machines, All Brands

Brookside Equipment is a used equipment dealer of all brands, selling excavators, backhoes, wheel loaders, skid steers, dozers, rough-terrain forklifts and commercial trucks. The major names the company sells are Caterpillar, John Deere, Case, Hitachi, Komatsu, Yanmar, Bobcat, Lull, Ingersoll Rand, Volvo, Mack trucks, and many more.

“We don’t discriminate if the price is right,” said Matt.

“Being a used equipment dealer, we back up our customers in the event of a major/catastrophic event with a machine they buy from us,” said Dan. “Most used dealers don’t offer any sort of warranty on machines. We do our best to give the buyer some protection for 30 days on major components, [i.e., engine, hydraulic pump]. Whether it’s helping in the cost of repairs, or taking the machine back, again ... all about going the extra mile to keep customers happy and make sure they want to come back to us in the future, and if not, at least spread a good word about our company.”

The McHugh family has sold machines to more than 30 different countries, some as far away as New Zealand. Historically, during Hurricane Katrina, the small business way up north received what it called, “tons of phone calls from Louisiana for machines to get sent down for cleanup.”

All of this success has come with just nine employees, including owners Dan and Roger.

“They’re not impartial toward any of us ... they dislike us all equally,” laughed Matt.

It has been this sense of humor that sustains the company through tough winters and the ebb and flow of challenging economic times.

“There are tons of funny stories between here and the old location, just because of the personalities of the people that work here,” said Matt. “Anyone who visits can see we’re able to keep a pretty laid back atmosphere. It goes hand in hand with our low-pressure sales style here. We believe a machine usually sells itself and our job is to simply help point the buyer in the direction of the right machine for him.

“Tim and I joke around a lot and I think that helps keep both my dad and Danny more relaxed than they would be otherwise. The reality of it is, we’re constantly turning over hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of iron, sending it from here to Siberia, or wherever. Tim says it’s the only way really to be. If you don’t have a sense of humor here the work aspect of it will just wear you down,” he added.

According to Matt, customers return to Brookside because of service (the company offers delivery from home later that same night or early the next morning), reliability and security and one thing more: “We try to offer the best possible equipment for the money, so, good prices, reliability, and the sense of getting what you pay for,” said Matt. “In one word — fairness.”

For more information, call 888/763-4656, or visit CEG

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