It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it and in southeastern Pennsylvania and central New Jersey that would be T.C.M. Sweeping.
The Bordentown, NJ-company, founded in 1979 by the father and son team of Leo and Joe Glassmire, has become the Delaware Valley’s premier sweeping business, experiencing meteoric growth since its sole mission of providing maintenance and renovation work for shopping centers.
Today, T.C.M. Sweeping tackles a slew of projects for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), local universities, many area contractors and the city of Camden, NJ. In all, the company boasts roughly 150 customers with 40 Mobil sweepers and the brand new Schwarze M6000 mechanical broom.
“We do a lot of sanding and salting for DOTs. We’ve been very successful with it, and we do everything in house. The sweeper is the most important machine on the construction job,” said Joe Glassmire, vice president of T.C.M., who explained the origins of his company and how it has grown significantly since its inception:
“My father was general superintendent for McClosky and Company for years and did concrete work on high-rise projects in Philadelphia, and he also was general superintendent for Slattery,” he began. “One day, in the late 70s, he was approached by his neighbor, who ran Bristol Development Corporation, which owned a shopping center up on Route 1. He needed somebody to design, build and erect a big steel sign holder on top of the building and asked my father because he always did work on the side. He had six kids, he was always hustling.
“The next thing you know, Bristol asked if we could handle renovating stores in the shopping center. Then it moved on to handling general maintenance of the entire shopping center, and we did it all. Eventually, we handled five other shopping centers that Bristol owned,” said Glassmire.
By 1983, though, Leo and Joe Glassmire were looking to branch out into highway sweeping and that same year, they purchased their first broom at auction — an Athey Corporation Mobil 2-TE-4. Just five short years later, T.C.M. purchased two additional Mobil sweepers from P&M Equipment of Vineland, NJ. Then, in 1990, H.A. DeHart & Sons, of Thorofare, NJ, took over the Mobil sweeper distributorship, and in the past 10 years, T.C.M has purchased 30 Mobil sweepers from H.A. DeHart.
Joe Glassmire reflected on T.C.M.’s first purchase and how the company began to flourish in the sweeping business:
“That [the Mobil 2-TE-4] was the biggest machine we’d ever bought at that time,” he said. “We just had one truck and we hooked up with a contractor and started doing his work and the next thing you know, we were doing work on Route 1.
“We didn’t have a guy on the street soliciting work for us. I was out there lying on the ground putting curb brooms on and it was just incredible. It was a lot of hard work, seven days a week, 23 hours a day. Dad backed me up with it. I had the youth and he had the knowledge and a little bit of financial strength and we made it. We just kept picking up jobs and we got stronger and stronger, got bonded and the state started putting out sweeping contracts and municipalities started putting out more sweeping contracts. We bought more equipment, we didn’t go to the racetracks, we put everything back into the company, didn’t take vacations,” he concluded.
Glassmire explained that getting sweeping work is similar to getting construction projects.
“Like a construction contract, you have to be pre-qualified just like a design-build job. It doesn’t fall under some purchase order number. You have to be qualified, you have to be bonded,” he said. “We bid the job, we do all the traffic, all the safety … everything. It’s just like building a bridge.”
However, what does differentiate a sweeping job from construction work is the high level of maintenance required on sweepers.
“They’re very, very high maintenance machines. With a dozer, for example, you work all day with it, change its fluids, then you park it and clean it off. On sweepers, all the parts are moveable,” Glassmire said.
“You can get a brand new broom out of the factory, use it for an hour and the machine will work itself to death. It’s just a constant battle maintaining the sweepers, so you really need some sharp guys in the shop that know what they’re doing. If I didn’t have the mechanical background and if not for our knowledgeable mechanics, we’d be put right out of business,” he said.
In 2001, Joe Glassmire admitted to feeling “devastated” when Athey Corporation, of Raleigh, NC, filed for Chapter 11.
“We were Mobil people,” Glassmire said. “That’s all we ever bought. And, as a result, we didn’t have a supplier. We didn’t have anything, so we were forced to look for a new line. Fortunately, a company called Schwarze, which hired the head engineer from Athey, came out with a new model, the M6000.”
Currently, Glassmire owns the M6000 and his mind already has been put at ease with the quality and efficiency of the new machine.
“A lot of what we had with Mobil, we have with the Schwarze, such as the conveyor system and the commercial chassis, so we’re really excited about the machine,” he said. “It’s going to do the job for us. In a way, it’s better with this new machine because it’s not a purpose-built chassis, it has a manufactured chassis either for a Freightliner or commercial chassis. And the M6000 has air brakes, instead of hydraulic brakes, which is better, but as far as the sweeping dynamics, it may be a little bit better.”
Glassmire also has been pleased with the service and expertise that he has received from H.A. DeHart & Sons, which carries the Schwarze line.
“It’s really been a good relationship,” Glassmire said. “We spend a lot of money with DeHart. I can call the president of the company and have some good conversations with him. He has really taught me a lot, mechanically. To talk to somebody you buy from to have that kind of information is priceless. These people are hands on.”
Joe Tompkins, customer representative of H.A. DeHart, has worked closely with T.C.M. since 1991 and credits Joe Glassmire as being an integral part of the creation of the M6000.
“Schwarze wouldn’t be here today without Joe,” Tompkins began. “We worked hand in hand for weeks. Three or four times, we’ve had this machine through the development stages until we got it where we wanted it with Joe’s help and suggestions. That’s why we have a machine that performs today, because we’ve had a major contractor working with us. We didn’t tell them how to do it, they told us how to do it.”
About H.A. DeHart & Son
H.A. DeHart & Son has been in business since 1884. Then, its focus was on blacksmithing, which included the repair of wagons that led it to manufacturing its own wagons. When automobiles came on the scene, the company shifted its attention to selling truck chassis and building truck bodies.
Today, H.A. DeHart & Son is one of the largest transportation distributors in the Mid-Atlantic region, boasting more than 60 manufacturer dealership franchise agreements. In addition to the Schwarze line, DeHart’s product lineup includes dump bodies, snow removal equipment, aerial buckets, cranes and Towmaster and Great Dane trailers. DeHart also has a full line of parts, service, repair and paint facilities that can handle all facets of the transportation market.
DeHart’s main facility is located in Thorofare, NJ, which is approximately 15 minutes south of Philadelphia, and has satellite facilities for sales and service in Seaford, DE; and Cliffwood and Stanhope, NJ.
About Schwarze Industries
In less than 20 years, Schwarze Industries Inc. went from start-up to becoming one of the largest sweeper manufacturers in the world. This year, the company is celebrating its 30th anniversary of sweeper manufacturing.
According to its founder, Bob Schwarze, who died in 2002, the company’s success “didn’t happen overnight, but through the combination of offering a quality product, stressing service after the sale, and being part of the rapidly increasing market for commercial litter removal and area maintenance.”
In 1963, Schwarze was working as a dispatcher for the Boeing Company in Huntsville, AL. One day, while eating at a restaurant, he observed some employees picking up trash in the parking lot by hand and couldn’t help but wonder how owners of large lots dealt with this problem. He contacted the owner of the largest shopping center in the city, who confessed, “That’s the biggest headache I have. Please give me a price for a seven-day-a-week service.”
One thing led to another and, and today, Schwarze is a recognized and respected name in the sweeper business.