BROWNWOOD, Texas—Scott Leach is a very soft-spoken man with a dry sense of humor. When asked his thoughts about the major milestone his family business—Leach Brothers Manufacturing and U-Haul Dealership—celebrating with U-Haul recently, he shrugged his shoulders.
“There’s not much to say,” Leach stated. “We’ve just been around a while. This is pretty much what I’ve been doing my entire life, and I haven’t wanted to do anything else.”
And just like that, Leach gave the understatement of the year, while also putting the milestone—55 years as a U-Haul Dealer—into perspective. It’s not that he isn’t proud of this accomplishment; he is. It’s just that 55 years doesn’t seem like a very long time to him because the business started by his granddad, Grover Leach, will mark 100 years in business in 2016!
“My granddad started making cottonseed graders, and he named the company Leach Brothers Manufacturing after my dad and his brother,” Scott Leach related. “As my dad got older, he started helping out more and more.”
By 1920, the company was manufacturing trailer wagons, and stock and horse trailers. Later would come all-metal, unsinkable boats and trailers. Leach seed graders were sold in agricultural areas all over the world. In 1935, Grover Leach and his son, Richard (Scott’s dad), invented an automatic disc grinder that forever put an end to the old method of heating, hammering and rolling plow discs to sharpen them.
“They sold many of those to the John Deere Company,” Scott pointed out.
Adapt and survive
Leach Brothers Manufacturing thrived until a materials shortage during World War II, but the family business managed to stick around. The same was true after devastating floods hit the area and virtually destroyed their large shops and warehouses in 1945 and again in 1953. Through it all, the business survived, largely because of its ability to adapt to changing times and roll with the punches.
The business manufactured specialty trailers to meet the needs of local farmers, as well as their own needs.
“Many of the trailers were built just to haul the cottonseed around our land,” Scott Leach observed.
When Richard Leach became a U-Haul Dealer in 1960, he already had several years of trailer-rental experience under his belt.
“In addition to selling trailers, we started renting them locally, starting in the 1940s,” Scott Leach explained.
The U-Haul Dealership quickly proved to be more lucrative than manufacturing and selling trailers, so the Leach family focused more of their attention to their U-Haul business and adapted their primary business, as they always have, to making other things, including hitches.
While he was in school, Scott Leach worked at the family business during the summer and on weekends, as did his two sisters. After a few years in the U.S. Army from 1969-1971, Scott returned to Leach Brothers Manufacturing and U-Haul Dealership full-time. He was being groomed to take over for his dad, who passed away in 1976.
In addition to his father and sisters, Scott is quick to point out the major role his mom, Joyce, played over the years, as well. Joyce Leach was involved in the daily operations beginning in 1940 until her retirement in 1986. She passed away in 2007.
“My mom always took care of everything,” Scott stressed.
“U-Haul has been real good to us,” Joyce said in a 1985 interview. “It helped put our three kids through college and gave them music and dancing lessons. I consider myself a real fortunate woman.”
Because Leach Brothers Manufacturing and U-Haul Dealership is a true family business in every sense of the word, activities related to the business became family outings for the Leaches. That included some late-night trips to Grand Prairie and Dallas—about 200 miles away—to pick up U-Haul equipment their customers needed.
“At that time, U-Haul would pay for the gas to go retrieve the equipment, so we’d turn them into family trips,” Scott reminisced. “It was a fun drive as a family, sort of like a big family get-together.”
As Scott got older, he and his dad would make the trips by themselves. Often, this meant leaving after the dealership closed and driving for much of the night, all to be sure the U-Haul truck or trailer was there the next day when a customer needed it. This spirit of doing whatever it takes to help customers has been the driving force behind the family’s successful 55 years with U-Haul, and many more years overall.
“Scott is really good with people,” proclaimed Anthony Trinidad, area field manager for U-Haul Company of West Texas. “A customer could walk in there stressed out and mad on a Friday night, when everything else is closed, and Scott has a way of calming them down, taking care of them and making sure they leave with a smile on their face. He just has a very calm nature about him, and he’s a great guy.”
Enjoys coming to work
When asked, after all these years, if he still enjoys getting up and coming to work every day, Leach showed off his dry sense of humor.
“I enjoy coming to work, but it’s the getting-up part that I don’t like,” he laughed. “I have joint pain, so when I get out of bed in the morning, everything hurts! But I enjoy being here and plan to do it until I physically can’t do it anymore.”
After all, he has quite a family legacy to carry on.
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