Lancaster New Era Sunday News
Published: Mar 23, 2008
Big in trucking
By DENNIS LARISON, Business Editor
Owners Allen and Linda Zook say they've sold about 12,000 trucks since May 2006, when they took over the Mount Joy firm.
Penjoy's customers have included a number of big-name companies, such as Rite Aid, Staples, Nestlé, Pitt Ohio Express and Yellow Freight.
Maybe it's the cost starting at $40 a truck in minimum lots of 100.
Of course, at that price, the trucks are so small they can't haul much more than the customers' logos. But for promotional purchases, that's enough.
And unlike most dealers of full-size models, Penjoy actually assembles and paints the one-sixtyfourth-scale trucks it sells.
The metal parts are die-cast at Deco Products in Decorah, Iowa, and shipped to Mount Joy for finishing. The rubber and plastic parts are made by Master Tool and Mold in York.
Despite being just a few inches long, Penjoy's trucks have as many as 57 parts, said Allen Zook, the company's president.
Once the parts are cleaned up and "painted" with a baked-on powder finish, it takes about a day and a half for an employee to put 100 trucks together, he said.
Most of the value, though, is added when the customers' logos are applied using silk-screen printing for the flat and cylindrical surfaces, and pad printing for the curved parts.
The more colors in the design, the higher the price per truck.
Penjoy was founded in the early 1990s by Jim Binkle, of Manheim, who sold the business to the Zooks and still owns the building the company leases.
Linda Zook, who became Penjoy's chairman, said they decided to buy the company after her husband, Allen, was laid off for the fourth time in five years.
A machinist, he had specialized in programming computerized machines. As his employers upgraded to newer, more user-friendly machines, his programming skills were no longer needed.
Allen Zook said it was actually an employee at Bank of Lancaster County in Mount Joy who, upon learning of his latest layoff, asked if he'd ever considered owning his own business.
The employee knew Penjoy was for sale, he said, and she gave him the telephone number to contact Binkle.
Long discussions with Binkle and area banks followed.
Both Zooks enrolled in a 15-week Venture Training program at HACC Lancaster that teaches business practices to unemployed people who want to start or buy their own companies.
Bob Parr, a counselor from the Service Corps of Retired Executives, or SCORE, helped the Zooks draw up a business plan to submit with their loan application to the bank.
Penjoy seemed to be a good fit for the Zooks, Parr said. It wasn't an exceptionally profitable business, but it had the potential for growth.
"There was some real talent there to the team [of employees], and the quality of the product was very good," he said.
Parr helped the Zooks sort through the financials to establish a reasonable purchase price, based mostly on income rather than assets.
The Zooks and Binkle both "seemed to be honest parties working together" to arrive at fair terms, Parr said.
"We are just working people," Allen Zook said. "It was a good deal, and the bank saw it as a good deal."
So far, the Zooks said, it has worked out well for them.
"We're having fun," Linda Zook said.
The business provides employment for nine people three, including Allen Zook, who work there full time, and six, including Linda Zook and the specialists who print the logos, who are part-timers.
Penjoy's trucks come in a variety of trailer configurations to replicate the trucks its customers have on the road.
There are box trailers, flatbeds and four different kinds of tankers, depending on whether the customer's trucks haul milk, gasoline, propane or chemicals.
Penjoy just sold one of its cryogenic tankers to Praxair Inc. in Taiwan, which had seen its trucks at a convention in New York, Linda Zook said.
"Word of mouth is our No. 1 advertising," Allen Zook said.
Penjoy also makes trucks with custom designs to commemorate special events or meetings.
"We do a lot of things with the Teamsters because we are USA made," Linda Zook said.
Some trucks feature special loads, such as slabs of precast concrete or wooden roof rafters.
Penjoy even made a piggy-bank truck for Graystone Bank, which loaned the money to buy the business, the Zooks said.
The company also produces a line of one-fiftieth-scale utility vans for such customers as Sir Speedy printing and Darrenkamp's Food Markets.
The trucks usually become gifts for the purchaser's customers or employees.
"PPL always does a Christmas truck" for select employees, Allen Zook said.
Eventually, many of the trucks end up being sold as collectibles, and some customers allow Penjoy to make extra trucks to sell to the public.
The Zooks go to a number of toy shows to sell trucks, particularly those with special loads, and they have a Web site, www.penjoy.com, where the public can buy their trucks.
The company also has a collectors club with more than 600 members, who, for $15 a year, get discounts and a newsletter featuring the latest truck releases, including the two models Penjoy makes for itself each year.
"We only make a certain number," Allen Zook said. "When they're sold out, they're sold out."