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Growing Toy Pipeline Maintains Small Business Principles

Thu October 18, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

“It seems like a different world today from the days of cable excavators and things [being] done manually, yet, I don’t regret the time and energy we poured into building our business,” said Merle Toy, founder of Merle Toy Jr. & Sons Inc., now Toy Pipeline Contractors Inc. of Worthington, Pa., Merle turned 80 in July 2007.

Merle started the business in 1953, after serving two years in the army during the Korean War. His first purchase was a trenching machine and dump truck. He used the truck to haul coal from mines in Armstrong County and the trencher for gas, water and drain lines, putting in long days.

A friend who took care of Lawn Haven Burial Estates mentioned that they could use a backhoe to open graves. Merle checked at a cemetery in Butler County that was using a backhoe and decided to buy his first machine, a Ford tractor with a Sherman backhoe attachment and Wagner loader attachment.

This was a new direction for Merle, expanding the business to include septic systems, excavations for new homes, footers and numerous similar services. And now Merle had to buy more equipment and hire employees.

The next machine Merle purchased was a Case 320 backhoe, which was the first complete unit built by Case, and purchased from a local Ford dealer. Subsequently, Toy started doing business with Cambria Tractor and Equipment in Ebensburg, Pa., the closest Case dealer at that time.

Another important change took place in 1977 when Merle’s oldest son Lee joined the business. Merle told him “It’s very hard work and long hours,” but Lee had a passion to be in the business and Merle was happy to welcome him. Another son, Lynn, joined the company in 1981 and worked with his father and brother until 1998, when he started his own company, Lynn Toy Excavating.

“I would say in the beginning and still today, it is word of mouth. We worked very hard! My wife Willa was a stay-at-home mom with our four children, but also did the bookkeeping. People started hearing good things about us because we taught our employees the importance of honesty and hard work,” said Merle.

“We were doing a lot of municipal water and sewer work back then and had about 15 employees working for us, and then in 1985, the R.C. Ernest Company of Butler County was selling and we bought them out, picked up their remaining contracts and also kept some of their employees, expanding the business into natural gas pipelines. We doubled our size with the acquisition of the R.C. Ernest Company. We also incorporated at that time,” Merle continued.

More growth and business followed, eventually creating another transition for the Toy Company that was handled well by all involved. For at least another 10 years, the company stayed with municipal water lines and natural gas pipeline work until the transition was made to doing primarily natural gas pipelines and excavation for gas well sites.

“When our company grew, we never forgot those hard working principles we had when we were small,” Merle concluded.

Merle semi-retired in 1990. He enjoys golfing and going to Florida in the winter. Lee took over as president of the corporation at upon Merle’s retirement.

“Now,” Lee said, “We are almost all natural gas services and plan to continue with that work into the future. We went from a 20-mile radius to a 150-mile radius with 75 employees and two locations. The main office and yard is at Route 422 in Worthington, Pa., and the second yard is at Route 119 in Punxsutawney, Pa.”

Toy has tank trucks and vacuum trucks that haul wastewater on a natural gas well job. This type of work expands its business further, which means Toy Pipeline does all the work itself, except drilling the gas wells.

“As our clients’ needs change, we try to move in the direction to best service their work load. Being diversified is key,” said Lee. “I would say that is my visionary statement for the future, because I want to keep the future simple without all these supposed goals.”

One way that Toy Pipeline has fulfilled the needs of its customers is by working with Groff Tractor & Equipment Inc., a Case dealer with whom they have a long-standing relationship. In the early days, Merle purchased Case equipment from H.P. Starr, the dealer that was ultimately purchased by Groff. Toy operates 32 Case machines, with 60-plus machines in its fleet.

Toy Pipeline and Groff Tractor picked up the relationship seamlessly, and have been working together ever since.

“When Groff came to western Pennsylvania and took over the Case line out here, we noticed a strong difference right away. Groff is very committed to strong service and we were pleased with our former Case dealer. We love Case and had bought Case machines from H.P. Starr in Valencia, Pennsylvania, and Groff didn’t take us for granted as a long-standing Case customer,” Lee stated.

“We started dealing with Mark Dublin, our sales representative, and he has been calling on us since 2003. We have enjoyed Mark calling on us. We recently purchased a 50th Anniversary Case 580K backhoe. Mark is very personable and we really appreciate how he does unique things for us. This backhoe is used, of course, for the many earthmoving jobs in our natural gas pipeline work,” Lee continued.

“One thing about Groff that we love is we are much respected,” concluded Lee. CEG

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