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McClatchy-Tribune  08/02/2014 8:53 AM ET
Tuffy Manufacturing celebrates 50th anniversary in style, ahead of big move [The Akron Beacon Journal :: ]

Aug. 02--Tuffy Manufacturing Industries Inc., celebrating its 50th year in business in Akron, is moving -- for all the right reasons.

The tire and wheel-related parts, supplies and tool distributor has outgrown its Evans Avenue location. By the end of the year, it expects to be in much larger space in Ascot Industrial Park in the city.

"We're a small-business Akron success story, just working hard like everybody else," said Steve Zimmerman, who runs the company started in 1964 by his parents, Lewis and Roslyn, in their home.

Tuffy celebrated its half-century in business in grand fashion Friday, bringing in customers, vendors and suppliers from across the nation.

They were treated to a catered lunch -- crabcake sandwiches, specialty burgers, shrimp and grits and more -- by well-known Cleveland chef Chris Hodgson, who has competed on Food Network shows.

"We've been working with Steve for months [on the menu]," Hodgson said. "He contacted us. He initially just wanted a food truck."

"Lolly the Trolley" shuttled guests to and from their hotel near Kent State University. The company then took guests to the Cleveland Indians-Texas Rangers game.

"This is full-out. There's only one 50th anniversary, and my mother is still with us," Zimmerman said. (His father died in January 2012.)

Roslyn Zimmerman remembered starting Tuffy in her home.

"I used to do the shipping," she said. "We used to have the big trucks pull into our driveway at home."

She never thought the business would get as big as it has.

"We're all in God's hands. He had a plan for us," she said. "I'm a mother who has been blessed."

Mayor Don Plusquellic proclaimed Friday as "Tuffy Manufacturing Industries Day" in Akron and applauded the decision to remain in the city instead of moving.

"I thank you for your commitment to Akron," Plusquellic said at the luncheon. "It's a great story about a family that started a small business."

Tuffy needs much bigger space, Steve Zimmerman said. "We don't have any room."

The company initially explored expanding its Evans Avenue building, its home since 2005, but decided it made more sense to move. The Ascot Industrial Park site, formerly occupied by HB Chemical, has 40,000 square feet of warehouse space, six docks and 5,000 square feet of office space, Zimmerman said.

"It will allow us the opportunity to grow our business," he said. Tuffy employs 15 and hopes to add five people over the next 18 months. Revenue is up 50 percent this year, he said.

"We've broadened our customer base," Zimmerman said.

Those customers include Waste Management, regional and national tire stores and truck stop businesses that include Travel Centers of America and Love's Travel Stops.

Tuffy helped Love's Travel Stops, a family-owned national truck-stop chain based in Oklahoma City, enter the tire-service business six years ago, said Dan Jensen, director of tire sales and service for Love's.

"He has never missed a deadline to get equipment and supplies to us," Jensen said.

Love's, which also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has 195 tire shops and expects it will have 202 by the end of the month.

"Tuffy and Steve made this possible," said Eric Roth, a marketing executive with Love's. "He's our industry expert. ... He makes our mission his mission."

Ken Siverts, vice president of sales for California-based Norco Lifting Equipment, another family-owned business, said Tuffy has helped his company grow. Norco makes and distributes such items as truck transmission and engine lifts.

"Steve has a very strong following in the truck stop business in the United States," Siverts said. "We like dealing with other family businesses."

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com.

 

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