(L-R): Brothers and DeCostole Recycling & Transfer Station co-owners Dan and Rich DeCostole call on Ehrbar Sales Rep Steve Gambutti for their Komatsu equipment and service needs.
It's a good thing that brothers Dan and Rich DeCostole seem to get along so well. If they don't, they sure have a funny way of showing it. The duo has paired for more than 50 years, most of which they've spent operating DeCostole Recycling & Transfer Station.
“We've teamed up since we were kids,” joked Rich. “We get along great, and we love the business.”
Even before they officially began working together, the brothers were being groomed for the industry. Their father, Frank, went into business picking up and selling wastepaper in the 1940s and transitioned to sanitation in the 1960s after purchasing a garbage truck.
“Dad started this company with a truck parked behind a gas station,” recalled Rich. “After Dan and I came on-board in our teenage years, it started to grow. We got into the construction roll-off business in the mid-1970s and expanded to include roll offs, garbage trucks and demo trailers at one time.”
Today, DeCostole Recycling & Transfer Station handles construction and demolition waste from all five New York boroughs at its acre-and-a-half site in Brooklyn's East Flatbush neighborhood. With 10 employees, the facility processes a high volume of material per day, recycling 25 percent of it.
“We purchased this location in the 1980s and at that time switched our focus to C&D recycling,” said Rich. “Competition and regulations in the sanitary industry really drove profit down, so we decided to make the change. It's a decision that's paid off for us.”
Get in, Get Out
Dan and Rich have built a loyal following by consistently exceeding their customers' needs. While the brothers realize that location plays an important role in a customer's decision on which facility to use, they also understand that convenience is a close second.
“We know our customers well, we have built relationships with them and we work to meet their needs,” noted Dan. “We have a good location, and we try to make it easy for drivers to choose us. There is no waiting at our facility; we get them in and out. We feel like we run our place very efficiently.”
Another advantage DeCostole Recycling & Transfer Station has is a wealth of experience from which to draw.
“We've been doing this for a long time,” declared Rich. “It's more than work to us, it's all we care about. We don't enjoy playing golf – we like to work. I was scheduled to take a two-week vacation to California a while ago, but I came back a week early because I was so bored.”
“We think we're just starting to get it down pat after all these years,” kidded Dan. “There is no secret. We really like what we do, and we've been doing it a long time.”
The DeCostoles also depend on long-tenured employees who help keep the operation running smoothly every day.
“Pretty much everyone here has been with us for quite a while,” noted Dan. “Yard Supervisor George Reyes does a great job, he more or less runs everything in the yard. We have several operators who do great work as well.”
Dan and Rich's attitude regarding equipment was to buy used pieces for the lower upfront cost, and it's a strategy they continued to practice throughout most of their decades in business together. However, after longtime mechanic Lloyd Frater passed away, the brothers needed reliable machines for their company.
“Lloyd was with us for many years, and he was always fixing our machines and piecing them together,” remembered Dan. “We'd buy machines that were 10 years old, and put another 10 on them, because Lloyd could make them run. When he passed, we tried to go with an outside repair service, but they couldn't keep up. We knew we had to change our purchasing approach.”
The brothers turned to Ehrbar and Sales Rep Steve Gambutti for help on reshaping their fleet.
“We'd worked with Steve and Ehrbar on used equipment previously, and were familiar with Komatsu, which is very popular in our field,” detailed Rich. “They worked with us to get new machines. We got financing through Komatsu Financial and Ehrbar took our old machines. Steve made it easy on us.”
The brothers' first purchase was a Komatsu PC290LC-11 excavator, and it quickly made a positive impression.
“It was like night and day,” reported Dan. “It replaced a machine that was 25 years old. The PC290 ran so well, plus it had heat, air conditioning and windows — the operators loved it. This was a major upgrade.”
The DeCostoles were so pleased with how the PC290LC performed, that soon after, they decided to upgrade to a new WA200-7 wheel loader as well.
“The first time our operator drove the WA200 he just about crashed it into a wall because the running radius was so much tighter than our old machine,” laughed Rich. “Both the PC290 and WA200 have helped improve our efficiency. The machines are faster and safer, and we know they are going to start every morning and run all day.”
In addition to dependability, the equipment also came with Komatsu CARE, which provides complimentary maintenance for the first three years or 2,000 hours, and KOMTRAX, Komatsu's telematics software. Both have provided value for DeCostole Recycling & Transfer Station.
“Komatsu CARE has been great because it took the machine maintenance off of our hands and guaranteed that if anything happened with the machine, mechanics who know exactly what they are doing will take care of it,” said Rich. “With KOMTRAX, Ehrbar is constantly checking in on our equipment. They contact us when they see something, which saves us time and money. We've definitely benefited from both Komatsu Care and KOMTRAX.”
The latest addition to DeCostole Recycling & Transfer Station's fleet is a new PC210LC-11 excavator, which it purchased recently from Gambutti and Ehrbar.
“Steve is a very attentive sales rep,” said Rich. “Even before we were buying new machines from him, he was always someone we could bounce ideas off of. We've had a great experience with him and everyone at Ehrbar.”
No Slowing Down
While Dan and Rich are at the ages when most of their peers are making plans for stress-free retirements in tropical climates, the DeCostole brothers have no desire to join them.
“We're hoping to do this forever,” Rich stated bluntly. “We really do enjoy what we do. It isn't a job to us.”
“We don't operate machines, so our focus is on the office side of the business; it's something we can do for a long time,” added Dan. “We've been involved in this industry since the 1960s, and we have a solid reputation. We aren't ready to slow down.”
Quite the opposite, in fact, as they continue to plan for the future.
“I'd like to see us grow, not into some huge corporation, but we could expand and modernize, for sure,” offered Rich. “I think the opportunity is there. One advantage is that we already have a facility. It's difficult to get permits for transfer stations like ours. That will always keep us competitive.”
(This story was reprinted with permission from Ehrbar Komatsu Advantage Magazine, March 2018 issue.)