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E. W. Sleeper Continues Working With Family Traditions

Wed June 25, 2008 - Northeast Edition
James A. Merolla

The little entity or person who unexpectedly outshines the bigger ones is called “a sleeper.”

That would be a perfect title for the 44-year-old E. W. Sleeper in Concord, N.H., that has been supplying contractors and municipalities throughout New Hampshire with construction and truck equipment since 1964.

E. W. Sleeper offers an array of equipment such as Yanmar excavators and wheel loaders; Stone compaction equipment; NorAm graders; MKB hammers; Etnyre, Rogers, Trail King, Bri-Mar and Hudson trailers; Schwarze sweepers and road patchers; Fisher, Viking, Larochelle, Valk and Housatonic snowplows; Hi-Way, Air-Flo, Fisher, Warren sand and salt spreaders; Pro-Tech snow pushers; Heil, Air-Flo, MG, Lanau and Warren dump bodies and combination bodies.

The company has a rental department that rents construction machinery and contractor’s supplies ranging from excavators to air compressors to water pumps and much more, serving New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.

’A Natural Aptitude’ for Machines

The company was started in 1964 by Ed Sleeper, a man who enjoyed iron equipment and had a natural aptitude for mechanics.

When he died in 1999, his family made the decision to continue operations. Sleeper’s daughter Eileen — who literally grew up within the industry after school — is president of the company and Jeff Morse is general manager.

“Hi-Way was our first ’real’ vendor, followed by Allis Chalmers, Larochelle and Rogers,” said Eileen Sleeper.

Until that time, Ed Sleeper sold cutting edges, bucket teeth, plow shoes and other wear items out of the back of a 1960-something Ford Torino station wagon. Ed would travel around to contractor job sites and municipal sheds developing relationships and selling these products.

“When he took on Allis Chalmers, he hired his cousin, Clark Page, who had just finished his duties with the U.S. military and together they sold ’em by day and fixed ’em by night,” said Sleeper, smiling. “Since then, we have carried many different lines of equipment. With the exception of companies, which have consolidated or gone out of business, we continue to maintain many of those same founding relationships today.”

It is experience within and without they draw upon, among Sleeper’s 20 employees.

Here are just a few of them:

• Jeff Morse has 10 years heavy construction sales experience. When he’s not supporting the staff and customers at E.W. Sleeper, Jeff owns and operates his own remodeling business.

• Chet Buck, municipal sales, is proud to have served New Hampshire and Vermont’s municipal customers for 24 years in truck equipment sales. Chet is well known and liked by his customers and he enjoys working with his municipal customers.

• Rick Keefe boasts 22 years of contractor sales, including several years selling to the building trades.

• Norene McGhee, office manager, is from California and has 29 years of banking, bookkeeping and general accounting experience. She is treasurer of the Pittsfield, N.H., Historical Society.

• Michele York has been involved in construction all her life, having grown up in a family of contractors. Michelle has 3 years clerical office experience.

Continuity is the key for Sleeper. The company has had only two general managers since the passing of Ed Sleeper. Dana Wright held the position from 1999 until his death in 2006. Morse joined the company as general manager in the late summer of 2006.

Sleeper wanted to mention other key personnel as well — Dennis Tremblay, parts manager; Ed Belisle, service manager; and Glen Lines, who has put in 30 years with the company as a service technician.

The keys for staying in business for 44 years, Sleeper said, are quality products, flexibility in process, committed employees and outstanding customer support, and quality workmanship first when doing and completing any job.

“We are a diversified company, we have a great general manager and employee team and we carry a desirable and diverse product line,” she said.

Grew Up in the Business

President Eileen Sleeper grew up in the business. From the time she was in elementary school, she would join her father (sometimes reluctantly, she said) at the office after school and help with filing, data entry and counting inventory.

After graduating from New Hampshire College, she joined her father full-time as sales coordinator. She handled sales of small equipment, marketing and sales scheduling. She also filled in for various other positions from time to time, including bookkeeping, shipping/receiving, parts counter and service dispatch.

Sleeper remains active in the business, although General Manager Morse handles all day-to-day operations. Sleeper also owns Heritage Harley-Davidson, New Hampshire’s oldest Harley-Davidson dealership, also founded by Ed Sleeper in 1982.

Many Changes in 44 Years

E.W. Sleeper has gone through many changes over its 44-year history. From starting out in the back of his station wagon, Ed Sleeper grew the business, bought real estate on Loudon Road, the current site of Sleeper, and expanded the building by adding a four-bay shop in the late 1980s.

“The company has survived the lean times and prospered in the good times,” said Eileen Sleeper. “At one point, the main product line for the business was Fiat Allis. Sleeper Company also represented the Samsung line in New Hampshire in the 1990s. When Fiat was bought out by New Holland and Samsung by Volvo, and those lines went to other dealers, the business changed again and became more of a rental house and truck equipment installation facility.”

Sleeper Company still has the truck equipment installation as a major part of its business model, but has recently added Schwarze self-contained street sweepers, NorAm graders and the Yanmar line of compact construction equipment.

There are always great challenges and special fits.

“A customer from Aggregate Recovery was looking for a trailer to haul his Cat 988 and be able to get down low enough to meet height requirements,” Morse began. “Our salesman, ’Rooster,’ specializes in setting customers up with custom trailers to fit their every need. Rooster and the customer put some specs together for an Etnyre RTN55TD4 55-ton drop side, 9-foot wide, steel deck, with wheel pockets allowing him to drop an additional 6 inches, 28 feet in the well, 4 axles air ride, with 4th flip, 120 inches swing clearance, 30,000-pound suspension, 25,000-pound axles, with 275 rubber. This is just one of many specialized trailers that we sell here at E.W. Sleeper Company.”

Top Dealer Awards

It is this kind of specific attention to detail that has earned Sleeper the Hi-Way Top 10 Dealer Award for 20 years, the Rogers Top 10 Dealer Award for eight years and the Midland Top Dealer Award.

“I am proud of the fact that the company has gone through so many transitions and it is still well recognized in the industry and it is successful. I think Ed would be surprised and proud that the company that bears his name is still alive and doing well,” said Eileen Sleeper. “I don’t think that surprise would be an unusual reaction because of the type of founder that Ed was. His name is on the sign and the company was his life’s work.

“I am proud to continue the business and the family tradition. I am proud to carry on my father’s values of customer service, fair pricing and high quality products. We do not sacrifice quality for price. That’s the reason we continue to carry many of the high quality equipment lines my Dad started and grew the business with,” said Sleeper. “I actually have a very positive outlook for 2008 and beyond.”

For more information, e-mail [email protected]. CEG

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