By most measures 1903 was unremarkable. The weather was neither warmer nor colder than previous years and the political “climate” was being well managed by President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. 1903 marked the century’s transformation from individual “sweat labor” to a machine orientation in agriculture and industrial production. Textile machinery had taken over the sewing and knitting business, railroads were replacing canal traffic, mechanized farm equipment enabled substantial increases in the production of food and, perhaps the most important of all, the advantages of mass production were being realized by all segments of the industrial process.
Edward Ehrbar, Inc. was established in 1903 and is recognized as one of the premier heavy construction equipment distributors in downstate New York and Connecticut. The primary markets we serve are construction, earthmoving, road building, material handling, paving, compaction, recycling and demolition. Edward Ehrbar, Inc. is principally engaged in the sale, rental and support of equipment for these markets.
The timing of these changes did not go unnoticed by a small group of forward thinking businessmen and individualists. They sensed the uncommon opportunities which were presenting themselves as a consequence of this transformation.
Edward Ehrbar found himself in distinguished company that year. His decision to “break the mold” and strike out on his own was shared by the likes of the Wright Brothers and the founders of such notable companies as Harley Davidson, Ford Motor Company and Turner Construction Company. The E.D. Etnyre Co. and General Electric Company founded some years earlier are centenary companies as well.
What motivated these men to strike out on their own and sustain success for over 100 years remains largely unknown, other than for the fact that they were each mechanically gifted, hard working individualists convinced of their eventual success. They all were aware of the opportunities presented by “the machine age.”
It’s no accident when a company reaches its 100th birthday. To get to this milestone, a business must demonstrate an unrelenting work ethic, an unparalleled quality of the product or service that the company offers, a “customer is always right” philosophy, an uncanny ability of the company’s leadership to make the right decisions at the right time, a consistently dedicated staff, and a bit of good fortune, too—all of these Edward Ehrbar, Inc., of Pelham Manor, NY, has blended together for a success story that has lasted a century.
Edward Ehrbar, a successful ex-farmer from Ohio, moved to New York at the turn of the century. In 1903, he financed the organization of a heavy-hardware business – Edward Ehrbar, Inc. – by serving as a time keeper during the construction of the Queensborough Bridge.
By the early 1920s, three additional Ehrbars began helping out in the business: Edward Sr.’s sons – Edward Jr., Chester and Joseph. In the afternoons following school, the three boys would handle such tasks as sharpening pickaxes and providing mule and wagon deliveries to New York City contractors.
By 1927, the company had already experienced substantial growth. At the same time, however, the company was hit with a major personal and professional loss — the death of its founder.
With the death of Edward Ehrbar Sr., who founded the company 24 years earlier, the weight of running the business fell squarely on his 20 year-old son, Edward Ehrbar Jr. Perhaps it was because of all the time he had logged at his father’s company or maybe it was genetic, but Edward Jr. had a remarkable knack for business, leading the company through the depths of the “Great Depression.”
By the late 1930s, Edward Ehrbar, Inc. had become a full sales and service organization due to Edward Ehrbar Jr’s. vision for the industry. Edward Ehrbar Jr.’s success as a heavy equipment dealer led to his tenure as chief of the War Production Board’s construction machinery section in 1942. Later, he spent two years overseas as commander – with the rank of Major – of an armored maintenance battalion. While Edward Jr. was in Europe, his brother, Chester, who served as vice president of the company, took the helm.
The founder’s namesake well positioned the company for the post-World War II construction boom by acquiring major equipment accounts, such as International Harvester, Hough, Barber-Greene and Thew-Lorain. These accounts led Ehrbar to even greater success.
Edward Jr., Chester and Joseph, who also served as a vice president, worked well as a team, engineering rapid expansion. Working from their headquarters in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, NY, they opened a facility in Union, NJ in 1946; in 1948 a branch in Westbury, NY. A new facility in Poughkeepsie, NY opened its doors in 1950 and in 1952, the City of Brotherly Love had its own branch.
Edward Ehrbar, Inc. had become a respected member of the Northeast construction equipment distribution community. Soon the company led the nation in sales of both Hough and Thew-Lorain products and ranked third in the country in International Harvester sales. When asked the secret behind building a successful business, Edward Ehrbar Jr. offered a terse reply: “Hard work and luck – it takes a lot of each,” he said.
In 1958 Edward Ehrbar Jr. decided to centralize operations and relocate the company from Brooklyn to a newly constructed facility in Pelham Manor, NY. The branch functions of Westbury, Poughkeepsie and Philadelphia were merged into the new, larger Pelham Manor facilities to take advantage of the centralization process.
Leadership of the company was again challenged in 1969 when Edward Ehrbar Jr. died unexpectedly. Succession, always a difficult process for any company, was accomplished successfully by the appointment of Jerry Ahern to fill the post of President and Chief Executive Officer. Ahern, a veteran Ehrbar employee, had been promoted “through the chairs” from Parts Clerk in 1947 to Vice President/Sales Manager in 1958. Jerry accepted his new responsibilities with the enthusiastic support of Ehrbar staff, financial associates, vendors and the customer population as well.
The late 70s and early 80s saw three of Jerry Ahern’s sons entering the business. Matthew, Patrick and Edward each worked for the company during their respective high school and college years. Today Pat functions as President and Matt as Executive Vice President overseeing the sales and marketing aspects of the company. Ed as M.I.S. Manager, is responsible for computer and information technology throughout the company.
Consolidations and mergers of construction equipment manufacturers since the early 80s to the present day have had an enormous impact on equipment distribution. Ehrbar experienced a tremendous amount of expansion and contraction due to territory re-alignments of the manufacturers represented during the past 15 years. Today the company represents the finest line of construction equipment products available. The company sells and services this equipment from its headquarters in Yonkers New York and its two full parts and service locations in Holbrook, New York (Central Suffolk County) and Danbury Connecticut (Fairfield County).
Ehrbar’s record of service to the construction equipment industry is well established and 100 years strong. Changes in technology, customer demographics and the very nature of the way business is conducted in the 21st century are the challenges faced every day. The experience of a century in the construction equipment business, an association with manufacturers dedicated to quality products, administered and supported by dedicated, technically proficient personnel assures customers continuation of demonstrated service excellence. The company has a business philosophy that can probably be summed up best by what Chairman Jerry Ahern said in an interview celebrating the company’s 85th anniversary — “It is Ehrbar’s pledge to make every effort in OUR business to contribute to the safe, efficient and profitable operation of YOUR business.”