Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 17 January 2012 15:58
A business based on the farm for more than a quarter century has moved to the city.
Since the transition in mid-October, Jost Fabricating has settled comfortably into its new home in Hillsboro Heights right along U.S. Highway 56.
Kevin and Angy Jost, owners, say the move couldn’t have gone much smoother—and the local reception couldn’t have been much warmer.
“We really haven’t looked back,” Angy said. “What I think is the most amazing part, not being a town business, is that it’s been 100 percent positive. Everybody’s been so encouraging.”
Jost Fabricating has been selling and installing custom truck beds for 25 years.
As part of the process, they sell and install side rails, skirting, L.E.Ds, ladder racks, bale beds, custom-built tool boxes, a variety of hitches, hydraulic hoists, cranes, grill guards, front-end replacements, running boards and other accessories from a variety of dealers.
Jost Fabricating also is an authorized dealer for trailers produced by local manufacturers Hillsboro Industries and Circle D as well as others.
Although their truck-bed clients come to them literally from across the country, the Josts admit locating the business on the ancestral farm two miles west of town all these years has kept it off the beaten path of local public consciousness.
“For the most part, people in Hillsboro didn’t know what we did,” Angy said. “Everybody has said, ‘You’ve been so busy since you moved to town.’ Well, they weren’t on our farm before. We were busy there, too.
“But we have been busy since we’ve moved here.”
It started as soon as they made the move. Within a day or two, they made a couple of sales, thanks to the company’s exposure along the highway.
“Letting the inventory work for us and sell itself has helped a lot,” Angy said.
Jost Fabricating got its start in 1985 when the Josts returned to the home place after a stint in Colorado.
“We started doing some barn work on the side and it evolved into body work, then to semi repairs,” Angy said. “We did mostly repairs for several years.”
The business got a huge boost when it formed a relationship with Hillsboro Industries.
“Basically, we started installing some beds for them,” Kevin said. “They wanted to market through dealerships, so we became dealers on the truck beds.
“Our business just grew dramatically with the line of trailers they have and the quality of the merchandise,” Kevin said.
“We try to be quality-driven, too,” he added. “We don’t want to sell a product that isn’t quality and with Hillsboro (Industries), we just don’t have warranty issues to speak of.”
A good working relationship has been the key.
“It’s consideration toward each other that’s developed into a good business with us and them,” he added. “We recognize how important Hillsboro has been to us, and hopefully we have given something back to them.”
The Josts like the idea of teaming with local businesses. In addition to the close link with Hillsboro Industries, they have installed many custom toolboxes produced by Horseshoe Metal Works, which is owned and operated by Donovan Funk at his rural residence.
The company’s new location between Country Haven Inn and Sonic Drive-In couldn’t be better suited to the needs of Jost Fabricating clients.
“It’s so much nicer for the customers,” Kevin said. “We’ve got a motel here, a place to eat—and we do have a lot of out-of-state people who come to us.”
For example, in the past few weeks the customer list has included people from Las Vegas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Georgia, New Mexico, Minnesota, Florida and even Canada.
The proximity of Hillsboro Industries eliminates freight costs, so clients find it affordable to drive sometimes halfway across the country to watch the installation of their truck beds and accessories firsthand.
Jost Fabrication fills a niche.
“On a flatbed there’s a lot more work involved and more liability involved,” Kevin said. “Some (dealers) don’t want that and don’t know the people who do it. A dealer might offer a Hillsboro bed, but you’re going to have to find your own guy to put it on. That scares people.
“It’s just nice to work with local manufacturers as much as you can.”
Expanding the team
Kevin and Angy Jost have been joined in the business by their sons. After a stint in another line of work for a few years, Tracy has been back with Jost Fabricating full time for the past six years as shop manager.
Son Austin has his own local business, JostruX, which does vehicle upholstery and customizing—services that Jost Fabricating clients sometimes need.
“It’s another way for a person to come here, and hopefully everything they want done they can get done here rather than having to go here, then go there and then go there,” Kevin said.
The Josts also have hired additional help in the shop, in sales and in accounting and inventory control.
“We’ve just got good help,” Kevin said of their team. “People always remark, ‘you’ve got good guys.’”
Making the move
The decision to move to town was quick—once the lease agreement was finalized with the owners of the building, Midway Motors.
“The nice part is we leased it for a year with a two-year option,” Kevin said. “We can buy it anytime. This gives us a feel for what we need, what works, what doesn’t work. We can figure out if this is the right spot for us.”
If the current facility proves to be less than ideal, the Josts said they will consider alternate plans, including building their own facility.
But one thing is sure: They aren’t moving back to the farm if they can help it. Locating the business in town has benefited the family, too.
“Somebody said, ‘now you’ve got to drive to work.’ Yes, but I also get to drive home,” Angy said. “It’s really nice to have that separation. When we leave work, we go home. That’s been a real plus.”
Kevin said when the business was on the farm, it wasn’t unusual for customers to show up early in the morning.
“You try to be customer oriented at home, but you pull into our place at 7,” he said. “Am I going to go and take care of the chores and the cattle and have a cup of coffee with my wife—and let him set? No.
“It’s a little more structured (now),” Kevin said. “We’re still going to take care of customers if they show up early—and we’re here. But if we’re not here at 6:30, you may have to sit outside and wait for the first guy to show up.”
Looking to the future
The Josts are excited about the future of Jost Fabricating. They already envision several areas where they may expand their customizing services.
But growth of the business isn’t the driving goal.
“We’re trying to stay close to our roots and stay well-grounded on this—that’s the main thing,” Kevin said. “We want to stay grounded and still try to offer as many services as we can and try to make the customer know about us.
“We don’t advertize terribly much,” he added. “A lot of time it will be a neighbor of a neighbor (who spreads the word), and that’s cool. It’s good to have a little more help around so it doesn’t get more consuming.”