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‘We’re growing and very healthy’

September 5, 2011
Filed under Features

WPS family ownership
now in third generation

By Dave McMahon
Senior Editor

Growing up in the trucking industry, Craig Shoemaker developed a fondness for the heavy vehicles. His parents owned a trucking company, and Shoemaker was at home learning about how the engines operated.

“I was always at the shop alright,” Shoemaker laughed. “But I was washing trucks and doing those types of things. By the time I was 14, I could overhaul an engine on a Detroit [Diesel]. That’s the business I grew up in.

“In my senior year in high school my folks sold the trucking company out of nowhere. Someone came in and made a big fat offer that was too good to pass up. I worked at smaller trucking companies after that. I was always good at having my own shop or my own truck stop. I loved the trucking side of the world.”

But nearly 30 years in the powersports industry as president and CEO of Western Power Sports has Shoemaker appreciating his opportunities.

“My wife, Deena, and I got married in 1981, and her father, Dwain Brobeck, asked me to come work for him here in 1983,” Shoemaker said during an interview with Powersports Business during the WPS National Sales Meeting in Boise, Idaho. “I came along as his first son. He had waited a long time for a boy.”

Brobeck was no stranger to powersports. He had been a Polaris snowmobile racer, and his father-in-law had founded Western Power Sports after bringing the first snowmobiles out West from Polaris during the 1959-60 winter season. The company initially sold only the units, and Brobeck was the salesman.

“[Brobeck] convinced him in the late 1960s that they needed to get into the aftermarket business,” Shoemaker said. “Of course in the late 1980s Polaris went dealer direct, so the only thing left was the aftermarket side of the company.”

Brobeck passed away in a drowning accident in 1996, and Shoemaker and his wife became sole owners of WPS in 2000, giving the company its third generation of family ownership. It’s currently in its 51st year of operation.
When the distributor’s new four-story warehouse opened in 2000 on a parcel of 32 acres in Boise, some of Brobeck’s ideas were apparent in the new building.

“Before we moved, the place next door to us had a racquetball court in their building, and my father-in-law always said ‘Man, I’d like to do something like that for our employees one day,” Shoemaker said. “So when it was my call and we were building a new place, I thought it would be fun to have a basketball court. I enjoy playing sports, so why not?”

Shoemaker’s athletic background helped make the decision an easy one. Now, a softball field greets visitors at the front of the building. On another side, a motocross track provides what WPS employees admiringly refer to as Shoemaker’s “dozer therapy” that allows him to a hop on a bulldozer to move dirt whenever he likes. A recent overhaul of the track kept him on the tractor for about 40 man hours. The basketball court and fitness equipment inside the warehouse round out the exercise options.

“One thing led to another,” Shoemaker said. “We have a certified trainer on staff who spends half his time working in the warehouse and the other half working with our employees on nutrition and exercise. Do you want to bulk up? Be healthy? Toned? They set their goals and he helps them achieve them. At the end of the day, we sell fun and we like to have fun.”

Shoemaker is on one of six teams that play in the company basketball league. A former collegiate football player, he’s also been known to get picked as a substitute in the flag football league that uses the outfield of the softball diamond.

“One night I ended up playing on two teams,” Shoemaker admitted. “I looked out there the other night and between wives and kids and dogs, there must have been 30 people watching the games. I was always into sports. I’m not an ex-racer or anything like that. Everybody thinks that for some reason. Pretty much everything I’ve done in the business I’ve learned over the past 30 years.”

WPS continues to grow

“We’re growing and very healthy.”

That’s how Shoemaker described the state of the company in August at the WPS National Sales Meeting.

Since the April opening of its fifth warehouse in Indiana, WPS now ships an average of
5,000-7,000 boxes per day from its five locations in the U.S. WPS employs about 150 at its Boise headquarters, and slightly less than 400 total.

Shoemaker doesn’t foresee any changes to the highly successful National Sales Meeting format. It’s appealing for vendors, who meet with sales reps for 25 minutes apiece to talk about their new products.

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