Thriving as a Family
USA Trailer Sales
USA Trailer Sales is a second generation, family-owned-and-operated trailer supplier of open and enclosed trailers, accessories, parts and services from six locations throughout the state of Michigan.
The earliest roots of the company can be traced back to the late 1960s when Pierre and Rose Laginess founded a vintage car company that they called Antique Auto Sales. Pierre had always had a love of antique cars. As a child, he would buy cars from junkyards for as little as $25 – a few hundred dollars in modern currency – fix them, repair the interiors with the help of his mother and sell them, often for twice what he had paid.
By his mid-twenties, Pierre was highly skilled at locating and fixing antique cars, and that was when he founded his company. Over time, it expanded to include fleet vehicles and grew to three dealerships, but it was Pierre’s love of the antique car that took the company around an unexpected turn.
The movie industry, needing access to antique cars, began working with Antique Auto Sales to find cars for movies like The Untouchables and Forrest Gump. The company needed trailers to transport these cars to film shooting locations, but had difficulty finding a supplier. This led Pierre and Antique Auto Sales to an accidental discovery. Many customers began to show interest in purchasing the trailers. On a whim, the company put a few for sale on the lot, and within a short time, they were selling better than the cars.
Today, the company is in its second generation of family ownership under Pierre’s four children and a brother-in-law. It has six retail locations throughout Michigan in Traverse City, Grayling, New Boston, Edmore, Monroe and Ionia.
Through hard work and a commitment to giving the best possible value, USA Trailer Sales has become one of the leading suppliers of trailers in the nation. It stocks trailers of all large brands and is in the top ten in nationwide sales for most of those manufacturers. It has made an impact in the trailer market and is an important asset to its many suppliers and customers.
The company offers an extensive range of trailer types including enclosed cargo trailers, open utility and equipment trailers, racing trailers and car and boat trailers. These are all available in various sizes, colors and with options such as multi-axles for larger equipment or ramps for loading and unloading. The company works with well-known manufacturers including Load Trail, Stealth Trailers, AMO, MTI, Lightning and LOOK.
The company’s website helps customers sort through the impressive assortment of products. It has a search feature that enables customers to find the perfect trailer for their specific needs by selecting the features they want and allowing a USA Trailer Sales team member to find the trailer that suits them.
After thirty years in the trailer industry, the company has developed a keen understanding of what it takes to be successful. One of the crucial components of the USA Trailer Sales model is maintaining a large quantity of inventory at all times to meet customer demand. Having inventory enables the company to keep pricing competitive and fair. Added fees are commonplace in the industry, but USA Trailer Sales prides itself on treating customers the right way, and it has earned a great deal of repeat business as a result. Despite being large, it has a nimble approach to how it operates and constantly reviews and adapts to shifts in market forces.
“My dad’s first car lot was directly across the street from our house,” says Tim Laginess, one of four company owners. “We grew up in a used car lot environment our whole lives; it’s in our blood. There are a lot of little things we do to make it work.”
Staying ahead of the ever-changing dynamics of the trailer market can be a challenge, but USA Trailer Sales is dedicated to understanding what the market needs by listening closely to customers and suppliers. The company’s managers attend trade shows to stay abreast of new products and technologies, as the trailer industry is becoming more technologically advanced every day.
The company has been family-owned-and-operated throughout its entire existence and has built a team of long-tenured employees who are seen as members of the family themselves. Most managers have been with the company for fifteen years, and many employees for ten or more. Together, they operate under one vital principle: ‘Don’t overthink things.’ The leadership believes in keeping things simple and keeping things moving.
Having six locations throughout Michigan presents certain management challenges. As the company expanded, it became important to find a way to manage multiple sites from a single central headquarters, and over time, it developed an approach that has worked. USA Trailer Sales challenges its store managers to act as owners, giving them the freedom to operate each location according to what they identify as the specific needs of the customers in their region. Finding the proper balance between letting each store run with some degree of autonomy while having just enough structure to keep everything moving together is a careful balancing act, but one that works.
“We keep dialing it in, trying to figure it out. It’s something we’re constantly working on. Every location is a little bit different when it comes to what customers want,” says Ed Laginess.
The result of this approach is six locations that are all prosperous. The New Boston branch was the first USA Trailer Sales location and still operates today. The store specializes in equipment trailers, dump trailers and deck-over trailers but stocks many other types as well.
The Edmore branch is recognized as one of the country’s top trailer superstores, with upwards of 400 trailers at a time. The Monroe location has all the standard trailers, but also boasts a beautiful showroom that harkens back to the store’s roots and showcases antique cars. In Ionia, the management recognized an opportunity to carry sporting goods such as guns and bows, as many of the company’s customers are hunters and anglers. In Grayling, the company’s warehouse has nearly five hundred open and enclosed trailers, and in Traverse City, despite being one of the newest locations in the chain, customers can find trailers from any major brand.
At every location, the company provides many accessories, parts and repair services to stand by its products long into the future. To help customers deal with the harsh weather conditions that often come with Michigan winters, most locations stock snowplows throughout the season. While every location is distinct and suited to the region within which it operates, the thread that runs throughout is a dedication to customer service.
Making the process as painless as possible for customers is something that the company has found to be of great importance. “It’s not like a Cadillac dealership,” says Tim Laginess. “People don’t buy trailers because they want them; they buy trailers because they need them. We understand that.”
Helping customers find exactly what they need, offering a competitive price with no hidden fees and standing by the product after the sale through parts and services give USA Trailer Sales a winning formula. Beyond this, financing options are also available to help customers get their trailers hooked up and on the road as soon as possible.
USA Trailer Sales has built a highly successful operation. It has grown from the accidental offshoot of an antique car company into one of the nation’s leading trailer suppliers, and it is continuing upward. For this small family business built on a dream, the future looks promising.