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F&W Equipment Corp. Builds Success for 73-Plus Years Having ’Fun at Work’

Tue October 23, 2012 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams


Company founder H.O. Funk.
Company founder H.O. Funk.
Company founder H.O. Funk. During World War II, Funk spectacularly rose to the occasion, working with iconic Electric Boat to create innovative, life-saving submarine technology. (L-R): Roger, Jim and Steve Funk represent the second and third generation of family ownership and operation at F&W Equipment Corp. One of the most notable service heroes is employee Charlie Glazier. He started operating equipment in the 1950s with cable-powered machines. He has been at F&W since 1992. One of the most recent adjustments in the 73-year-old company’s business plan was to introduce a brand makeover that included a new logo.

F&W Equipment Corp. is a highly-regarded firm that has served the Connecticut market since 1939.

F&W, or Fun at Work Since 1939, has been as pliable with the changing demands of its eight decades of operation as the oven-hot iron the company shaped and welded when it first opened its doors on the eve of World War II.

Founder Harold O. Funk originally opened F&W Welding Service and saw demand surge during the Great War, when iron and steel were needed for multiple military and stateside reasons. During the war, Funk rose to the occasion, working with iconic Electric Boat to create innovative, life-saving submarine technology.

After the war, F&W changed gears and began providing equipment and equipment service for the surge in post-war construction. This became a popular addition to the already established repair work the company was known for.

In 1955, F&W Equipment Corp. moved from its historic New Haven, Conn., location in Wooster Square to a new home in Orange, Conn. In 1965, the firm moved to its current location at 164 Boston Post Road.

For three generations, F&W Equipment Corp. has remained a family-owned business committed to delivering the best in equipment sales, rentals, parts and service.

Harold’s son Roger came into the business in 1963 with a metallurgical engineering degree. Roger understood the metal fabrication aspect of the business in depth, but embraced and drove the necessary changes to becoming a construction equipment dealer. For five decades, he has achieved many successes and attained many awards.

He has been awarded numerous distinctions from the Orange Chamber of Commerce, West Haven Rotary and also from the Orange Business and Development for his volunteer work and a business of the year(s). During his tenure, he also has garnered many distinctions for his performance from Case, Kubota, Samsung and Indeco. For decades, he has been active in many associations such as Associated Equipment Distributors (AED), Northeast Equipment Dealers Association (NEDA), NFIB and Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA).

“We’re proud of our history and proud of the part we’ve played in helping to build Connecticut,” said President Roger Funk, the second generation, who has been at the helm for a speck shy of 50 years.

Changing the Local Industry

Founder Harold Funk was an innovator. In 1956 he took his welding experience and began applying it by installing loaders and backhoe attachments onto Porsche tractors during a time when the loader backhoe was not common

Funk had the desire and the knowledge to adapt these crude attachments onto tractors to make them useful tools for the construction contractor and farmer. He demonstrated to local contractors how to work more efficiently with specific machinery — the right tool for the job — to make them more successful. Funk quickly began attracting construction contractors as customers and showed that he could serve their needs.

After more than 10 years in New Haven, F&W also became an Allis Chalmers dealer and Funk’s reputation grew from being a metal fabricator to a construction equipment dealer. He and his family continued to grow, selling and servicing loader backhoes, articulated wheel loaders, dozers and crawler loaders. He soon began developing a reputation for service among all site contractors in southern Connecticut.

In 1973, F&W became a Case construction equipment dealer.

“Our Allis Chalmers customers soon began to realize the quality, reliability and breadth of the Case Brand,” said Roger Funk. “Customers began buying the Case 580 loader backhoe and quickly found that it was the Swiss army knife that they had been needing. This would be the one machine that they needed to do a wide variety of jobs in a variety of conditions.”

Adapting With the Times

For more than 73 years, Connecticut contractors such as road builders, demolition contractors, environmental contractors, home builders, commercial site developers, municipalities, large and small utilities, landscapers, snow removal workers and many others, have relied on the equipment and services provided by the F&W team.

To better serve the construction industry F&W Equipment Corp. became a dealer for Case Construction equipment, Kubota tractors and construction equipment, Doosan construction equipment, Terex construction equipment, Eager Beaver trailers, Samsung, Indeco demolition attachments and Geith buckets and attachments.

“While representing these manufacturers we also work very closely with financing sources to help the customer to afford the machine they need. We have a large and diverse fleet of rental equipment,” added Funk. “This fleet includes the largest-to-the-smallest tracked and wheeled excavators, articulated haul trucks, wheel loaders of all sizes, dozers, loader backhoes, wheeled and tracked skid steers, and a very wide variety of attachments for specific applications.

“We provide servicing of all types of construction equipment from electrical repairs, engine and transmission repair,” he added. “We are able to modify equipment in many ways to make it more suitable for individual needs.”

Working With the Locals

Four decades after it began, F&W Equipment Corp. shifted into high gear in 1979, when The Southern Connecticut Gas Company purchased a fleet of 580C loader backhoes. Now merged with Connecticut Natural Gas, they maintain the natural gas infrastructure in Connecticut, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“They have to have their fleet ready to go,” said Funk. “Since then, they have updated their fleet many times over.”

Regional companies that buy and rent from F&W Equipment Corp. include Star Construction and Diversified Speciality Inc., each used both wheeled and tracked excavators from F&W on the local Pearl Harbor Crossing Improvement Program.

“For decades, we have been supplying A.J. Penna Construction and Brennan Construction [with] a wide variety of excavators, wheel loaders, skid steers and demolition equipment to do regular and emergency repairs of Aquarion Water Company’s infrastructure,” Funk continued.

“Many of our customers have been involved with the revitalization project going on in Stamford. We supplied track crushers, excavators and demolition equipment to Bestech Corporation during the demolition phase of the Pitney Bowes complex,” he said. “Connecticut Tank Removal has worked in many areas of the project, handling many environmental concerns. They have used many excavators with demolition attachments, tracked skid steers and wheel loaders to handle their jobs.

“We were able to help support Guerrera Construction’s wheeled excavators and some of their track excavators during the new construction of the Metro North/Fairfield Train station. During the road construction phase, they enjoyed running a Kubota mini-excavator that we were able to supply to them,” concluded Funk.

Testimonials

Various company testimonials may be found at the company’s Web site or online at YouTube. This one is typical:

It came from local contractor Vic Marek, one of a large pool of exclusive “Fun at Work” customers over many years.

“I had a breakdown on a Friday morning. The new part was $900, but the master welder at F&W had the part rebuilt by Friday afternoon for $113,” said Marek, Bleak Rock Construction. “That’s fun at work for me.

“I bought a Case machine from them in 1987,” he added. “It’s been one of the best purchases I ever made and the F&W team have kept it on the road for the last 25 years.”

It is the attitude that the company extends to its customers that keeps them happy and coming back. Jim Funk, Roger’s son and part of the third generation running the company, spoke of a typical phone call.

“Customers call me all the time and they ask me for advice and, during those phone conversations, they always interrupt and say they hate to be wasting my time,” said Jim Funk. “I tend to stop them right there and say, ’You know what? You are not asking me any stupid questions.’

“What we always enjoy are the jobs that people tell us can’t be done,” he added. “I have structural steel people here, I’ve got engine repair people here, I’ve got hydraulic technicians here who all just love to take on that challenge, whether that’s parts, whether that’s service or whether that’s sales. I want them to get the whole F&W life cycle here.”

Service – Our ’Secret Weapon’

Roger Funk credits his hard-working employees for delivering his great reputation over the last 73 years.

“The service team is constantly exceeding our customers’ expectations with their ability to diagnose and repair equipment with all sorts of issues,” he said. “We have a secret weapon in the field. His name is Adam and he is a legend in the business of getting your machine back to work.

“Another of the notable service heroes is Charlie. He started operating equipment in the 1950s with cable-powered machines. He has been at F&W since 1992 and has rebuilt many older machines with his vast history and technical wizardry,” said Funk.

Roger’s other son, Steve, runs the sales side of the business with a strong field team led by David Goulet, who joined F&W in 1989, bringing 15 years of prior heavy equipment sales experience to the team. Twenty-three years later, Goulet knows he made the right decision.

“We have had many challenges over the 23 years I have been with F&W and I have been gratified to work with the Funk family to meet each and every challenge.” Goulet stated. “The most important part of my experience has been to work with owners of high integrity and absolute honesty. That has been a critical part of serving the many new customers we have made together over the years. It also has given us new opportunities for future growth. Despite the economic conditions of the last four years, the future looks bright.”

Goulet has just received a special award from F&W Equipment Corp for selling 1,000 machines.

“We have seen lots of changes since 1939, and, since the GFC in 2006, we have made many adjustments to our business plan,” said Roger Funk. “One of the most recent is to introduce a brand makeover that included a new logo, Web site and refined marketing strategy that focuses our efforts on customer satisfaction and the new generation of contractors who have to have the right tools for the current market conditions.”

And as F&W adapted from its original small welding company to heavy iron sales and service, as they modified tractors for efficiency, changed brands and headquarters and logos, they also have embraced adapting to the new electronic universe.

“We have launched our ’Fun at Work’ channel on YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/FWequip) so our future customers can see how the latest machines better serve their needs,” Funk added. “This also works with our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FWEquipment) and our Twitter feed (twitter.com/fwequipment.) The social media is designed to cultivate interest in our products and cultivate future customers in online environments that they are already active in at times when they are off their machines.”

F&W Equipment Corp. is Connecticut’s largest Kubota dealer in construction equipment and the largest compact dealer in western Connecticut and most machines also are available for rental. This has become a popular first step for most new customers.

“When you’re sitting in the cab of that perfect machine on your next job, you will understand why, at F&W Equipment, we believe in ’Fun at Work,’” Funk concluded.