WOOSTER, Ohio — When Roy and Stella Leppo founded their company in 1945, they handled Oliver farm equipment out of their Akron-based store.
During the 1950s and 1960s, their son, Richard, oversaw the company’s growth and as the area changed, Leppo also changed to meet the needs of their customers.
Today, Leppo offers construction equipment, rentals, sales, parts and service. The Akron store serves as the company headquarters for northeast Ohio and the business employs 80 full-time workers and about 10 seasonal employees at six locations.
The facilities are operated as Leppo Rents and Bobcat of Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Wooster, Rootstown and Cleveland.
Having several locations is convenient for customers, according to Andy Wentling, customer service coordinator for Leppo Rents and Bobcat of Wooster.
“This gives our customers the flexibility of renting equipment for short-term projects or buying a piece of equipment for long term use,” Wentling said.
Leppo Rents and Bobcat has a qualified parts and service staff to help keep the equipment in top condition.
The primary product lines include Bobcat, JLG/Gradall, Stihl and MultiQuip.
The company handles Bobcat skid steer and track loaders, mini excavators, attachments and compact tractors. It also carries JLG/Gradall rough terrain forklifts that will carry up to 10,000 pounds and reach a maximum of 55 feet, dozers, compaction equipment, pumps, generators and concrete saws.
In addition, there is a wide range of landscape equipment such as aerators, bedding edgers, straw blowers, over seeders and sod cutters.
As the area around Akron changed from agricultural-based production to an industrial base, Leppo Rents changed to meet the needs of clients. The company moved into the construction equipment arena, while maintaining its agricultural roots through the Bobcat products, specifically the skid steers.
By 1970, customers didn’t want to tie up large amounts of capital in equipment they used infrequently and as they became interested in renting such equipment, Leppo Rents expanded into that market.
Bobcat developed the first skid steer loader ever made and Leppo began carrying Bobcat products in 1972. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bobcat skid steer loader.
By the 1980s, the Bobcat skid steer loader was one of the most widely used pieces of equipment on farms and in the construction industry.
Wentling said one of the reasons Bobcat is popular with customers is because of the product support.
Another secret to the company’s success is the ability to recruit and retain a staff of people who care about their customers, Wentling added. Nine of the company’s 80 employees have been with the company more than 30 years.
Wentling said that the company has developed a good working relationship with Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute and currently have 10 staff members who have attended or graduated from that school working as service technicians, salesmen, branch managers and as the vice president of rental equipment.
With the increasing demand for Leppo Rents’ product lines also came growth in the size and number of their stores. For example, in 2007, the Cleveland store added 11,000 square feet of service area and warehouse to its existing facilities.
The Canton store added 9,600 square feet and the Wooster store relocated to 480 W. Henry St., Wooster. The 9,000 square foot, newly renovated Wooster facility is located just off U.S. Route 30 at the intersection of Columbus Road and West Henry Street.
“We were renting another facility and we were looking for a place to purchase,” Wentling said. “Visibility was the key component to selecting our Wooster store. We have great visibility from the road and it is easily accessible.”
And with those expansions also came an expansion in products including dozers, larger compaction equipment and 80-foot aerial work platforms.
While there are reports that the economy is slowing down, Leppo’s business continues to remain steady. With growth in the commercial and industrial construction markets in northeast Ohio, the company has been able to expand its rental fleet.
Wentling said the biggest change that has taken place over the years is the demand for more rental equipment.
“Many of our customers are renting more of the equipment they need,” he said. “They may only need the equipment for a short period of time, they may have a spike in their workload or they simply don’t want to make a capital expenditure for that piece of equipment.”
Industry experts predict that the demand for rental equipment will continue to grow. The challenge, according to Wentling, is to be able to meet those demands.
“This will change how we staff our facilities and manage our fleet of equipment,” he said. “But there will still be a demand for purchased equipment and the means to keep it up and running. This is a balancing act that we will need to manage.”
Another challenge, according to Wentling is the weather and the economy.
“These two are our biggest challenge, because we can’t change either of them,” he said.
Leppo Rents will celebrate its 50th anniversary of the Bobcat loader with a celebration at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 21.
There will be a display of historic Bobcat equipment as well as the latest models in the product line.
For information on Leppo Rents and their product lines, or to register for the anniversary celebration, visit www.leppos.com.