Many things have changed since Whayne Supply Company began as a one-man operation a century ago.
The Ashland branch of the heavy-equipment specialist celebrated the company’s 100th anniversary Thursday with plenty of food and classic rock music, as well as a few speeches. Branch Operations Manager Ernie Steele said he has been on board for nearly a third of the company’s history, and cited a few of the things that have happened since it all began, including two world wars, a stock-market crash, the Great Depression and wars in Korea and Vietnam.
When the company began in 1913, Steele noted, life expectancy was about 27 years, few doctors went to college, most babies were born at home and the speed limit was set at 15 mph to prevent Model T cars from spooking horses. Steele credited customer service as the primary reason for the company’s notable longevity.
“One of the reasons I feel we are still standing are the relationships we’ve formed ... and the community we live in,” he said, as the aroma of a grill loaded with hamburgers and hot dogs wafted through the parking lot.
Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles acknowledged Steele’s discussion of relationships and Whayne Supply Company’s commitment to the community.
“It’s companies like yours that make things work in the community,” Charles said.
State Rep. Rocky Adkins said the secret of success is often surrounding yourself with good people, and saluted the workers and administrators at Whayne Supply. Adkins saluted the work force of “highly skilled and highly trained” employees and said, “You are a part of what built the greatest nation on Earth.” Adkins urged the audience to fight on behalf of the coal industry, which relies upon much of the heavy equipment sold and serviced by Whayne Supply. Adkins also presented a proclamation from the general assembly recognizing the company’s centennial, which he presented to Whayne Supply Co. and CEO owner Monty Boyd.
Boyd himself told the audience the company, which now has 16 locations in Kentucky and Indiana, actually began when entrepreneur Roy C. Whayne set up shop with a file cabinet, desk and catalog collection.
Whayne began selling items including wheelbarrows, pumps and light engines to people working on a flood-control project in Louisville. Boyd said Whayne established a business philosophy that continues to guide the company today — providing the highest quality equipment and then giving the customer outstanding service.
“Take care of your customer,” Boyd emphasized as the message for Whayne Supply employees who want the company to still be going strong after another century.
Boyd also reminded the audience Whayne Supply has never been allowed to become complacent and continues to establish new areas of operation such as lubricants, rentals and advanced technology.
“We’ve done the right things — fairly and ethically,” Boyd said. “We live our values on a daily basis.”
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.