Homberger Trucking closes its doors

HURON After 58 years in business, a local trucking company is closing its doors. Homb
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010



After 58 years in business, a local trucking company is closing its doors.

Homberger Trucking owners Jacquelyn Sallee and Lloyd Pitsenbarger said they struggled for several years to keep the small business open -- despite the closure of many industrial companies they served, rising fuel costs and increased competition.

They suspended operations Sept. 26, hoping the shut-down would be only temporary as they worked toward a solution.

But earlier this week, they realized they had exhausted all resources.

"We tried to explore every avenue to see if we could keep it open ... but the costs were exceeding the revenue that was coming in," Sallee said.

As an industrial carrier, the company served primarily manufacturing companies -- many of which closed in recent years.

At one time, Sallee said, Ford Motor Co. made up about 70 to 75 percent of their business.

They also depended upon Sandusky Athol, which closed in December 2006, the now-defunct Sandusky Holding Box and G & C Foundry, which shut down last fall. Homberger Trucking was one of a slew of creditors who suffered when G & C Foundry filed for bankruptcy, according to a March 2006 filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Toledo.

Sallee and Pitsenbarger said they knew they would never be millionaires when they helped purchase the Rye Beach Road company.

Frederick Homberger, who established the company in 1950, allowed his employees to buy it before he retired. It operated as an employee-owned company until 1996, when Sallee and Pitsenbarger acquired ownership.

They said their financial troubles started about five years ago, when manufacturing declines hurt many area businesses. Before they could begin to recover, they were hit again with rising fuel costs. Pitsenbarger said the company was spending an average of $1,000 each day on fuel costs in recent months.

The credit crunch seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. The owners said they sought loans in the past few months to stay in operation, but were unsuccessful because so many banks are tightening credit in light of collapses on Wall Street.

Sallee said they were able to provide vacation pay, but no severance packages, to the 12 employees who remained. She also said they would gladly provide supportive letters of recommendation to future employers.

Meanwhile, Sallee and Pitsenbarger, who have a combined total of 80 years in the trucking industry, are contemplating their next move.

"Right now, we're undecided (about what's next)," Pitsenbarger said. "We're just trying to follow our accountant's advice."

Sallee said although she's nearing retirement age, the thought of no longer working is difficult to imagine.

"I think I've got some good, productive years yet," she said. "I'm not ready to retire."

Huron Chamber of Commerce executive director Sheila Ehrhardt said she was disheartened by the news of the company's closing.

"Huron is made up of small businesses, and they're very important to us," she said. "I think with the way things are going today, to see any small business go under is very, very sad."

She said city manager Andy White and other economic development officials are aggressively marketing the Huron Corporate Park area south of Rye Beach in hopes of bringing more business to the city.