Opportunity sometimes comes in unexpected ways. Ken Ware found that out a few years ago, when he wanted to expand the fleet of equipment his ICR Contracting company owned. He planned to buy some equipment from a rental yard when the owner put the business up for sale. Ware ended up buying the entire Bellaire Hardware and Equipment Rental operation, giving his contracting business access to the equipment fleet and taking on a whole new venture in the process.
The rental yard in Bellaire has been expanding since Ware purchased the hardware store five years ago. Today, Ware is facing new growth potential with the Utica Shale Area exploration occurring in the region. “We’ve rented equipment to some of the contractors involved in pad construction and pipeline installation,” he said. “They like the Komatsu dozers and excavatorsfor the pipe work, and they have been using Dynapac rollers for compacting the pads.”
While Utica Shale exploration is still about 30 miles away from Bellaire, it’s getting closer, he noted. “They are starting to drill on the farm next to mine. I am certainly hoping for some of the business. In fact, I’m planning on hiring a salesman specifically for that reason.”
Currently Bellaire Rental Equipment serves customers that range from local municipalities to small contractors and homeowners, said assistant manager Kurt Ware, Ken’s brother. “We serve anyone who has a small business that uses some sort of equipment. The rental yard purchased Komatsu equipment—including dozers and mini-excavators—from Columbus Equipment Company a few years ago, and these products have been well received by customers,” he noted. Ware also provides customers the following equipment carried by Columbus Equipment: Link-Belt, Takeuchi and Dynapac.
Local municipalities, including the cities of Wheeling and Moundsville, are heavy users of Komatsu equipment. “The cities use the equipment for water lines, and the Komatsu mini-excavators are the perfect size to get into tight spots. So, if the city has to access an alley to replace a water line, these are perfect,” Kurt Ware said. “Our Komatsu machines also have the quick-change bucket so the operator can change the bucket out in just minutes.”
The equipment yard has dozers ranging in size from a D21 up to a D65. With this range of capabilities, contractors and homeowners rent the dozers for purposes as varied as landscaping, logging and new home construction.
The Komatsu equipment performs very well in the rental fleet, with customers often asking for the brand over competing models. “The Komatsu dozers are fantastic pieces of equipment,” Kurt Ware said. “We have never had any problems with any of them. In the rental business, they take a beating, with a different operator every day, and Komatsu is the best for holding up in those conditions.”
All the Komatsu machines are easy to operate, and that’s another plus when dealing with customers who may not be very familiar with construction equipment, he added. “I have to show the typical homeowner how to use the piece of equipment he is renting, but with Komatsu it’s easy to pick up.”
Both the Ware brothers have been impressed by the service they get from Columbus Equipment Company and from Joe Moore, their sales rep.
“Columbus Equipment is great when you call them. Our mechanic keeps up with maintenance, keeps them oiled and greased. But Columbus Equipment will send someone right out if it’s something we can’t handle. If we need anything—booklets, schematics, keys—or there’s something we’re not familiar with, they fax or email it to us. They even send a technician out if it’s something we can’t figure out,” Kurt said.
Having access to the rental yard equipment has worked well for ICR Contracting, which Ken Ware has owned for 15 years. His crews use the Komatsu dozers and mini-excavators for contracting projects. ICR primarily does reclamation work for Murray Mining throughout southeastern Ohio. “We are very, very happy with the performance of the Komatsu equipment in the applications we’ve used it for, including installing water lines and repairing slips after longwall mining,” Ken said. “The Komtasu equipment is very good on reliability and durability. We’ve put a lot of hours on them and they are holding up well.”
Bellaire Hardware has been a fixture near the West Virginia line for nearly a century. The store has passed through several owners and occupied several sites in downtown Bellaire over the period. It began business as a traditional hardware store about 1916, and the original owners even took chickens and other items in barter when times were tough for local farmers.
Over the years, the store has handled a variety of merchandise in addition to the nails, screws, hammers and other implements expected in a hardware store. During the 1970s, for example, the entire second floor of the building housed a large toy department.
In 1995, Bellaire Hardware got into the rental business, renting out small tools. Two years later, the rental division expanded and started offering its customers larger machinery such as skid steer loaders. Ware has continued that expansion since purchasing the retail outlet, and with the current natural gas exploration activity in the area, who knows where it will lead Bellaire Hardware? One thing Ken Ware does know for sure … as it has done since 1916, Bellaire Hardware will embrace the change and opportunity.