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Abele Tractor & Equipment Company History

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William Miller June 10, 1904, as seen at the tiller of the car he hand built in his machine shop on Everett Road. It was among the first automobiles to be seen in the Albany Area.

Abele Tractor & Equipment Company, Inc. is a 140 year old company. It is currently in its fifth generation of family ownership and operation. Its core business is sales, renting/leasing and servicing of construction equipment. The company also sells and services equipment for grounds maintenance for both commercial and consumer type customers. Abele Tractor is the dealer for fifty plus major manufacturers of equipment.

The company traces its roots back to the 1870s when German emigrant Nickolas Miller opened a blacksmith shop a mile north of the livestock yards at West Albany on Everett Road. He had eight children, four sons and four daughters. The youngest of the sons, William, served as an apprentice at the New York Central Railroad shops situated nearby. Eventually, with his two brothers John and Frank, they opened their own business at the same location as their father. John ran a blacksmith shop, Frankopened a wheelwright shop, and William ran the machine shop. The fourth son, Charles, was a judge who sometimes held court on the second floor of William's machine shop. The brothers were an entrepreneurial and ambitious family, and had an impact on the Albany area more then they could have possibly envisioned.

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Ken and his wife Thelma with their two sons, Rod and Warren, c. 1975.

The community recognized William for his exceptional skills as a machinist. He built one of the first steam-powered cars in the Albany area. In the early days of West Albany's fire department, he built the first two pieces of fire apparatus that the company used. William, and his wife Emma, had a daughter, Thelma, who would play a key factor in what would be a major transition of the company during the twentieth century. In December of 1940 she married Kenneth Abele from New Rochelle, New York. Kenneth was hired by William as an apprentice in 1940, and would become part of the third generation of the business started by Thelma's grandfather. In 1943, William retired, and Ken and Thelma took over business operations. During WWII the company had a priority rating issued by the government to buy structural steel and fuel. This made the company one of the few places in Albany that could meet the demands for repairs and maintenance of equipment because, at the time, new machinery was virtually impossible to obtain.

After the war the nature of the business changed from predominately repairing to selling and servicing construction and consumer outdoor power equipment. More land was acquired, new buildings built, and in 1959, the business incorporated as Abele Tractor & Equipment Co., Inc. Ken and Thelma set the precedents for the company, hiring a staff of knowledgeable mechanics and working with private and state contractors. This set the stage that would see Abele taking part in the development of the major state building projects in the Albany area in the 1960-1970s, including the state university, state office campus complex, Empire State Plaza, the network of arterial highways that surround the city and the New York State Thruway. Abele was one of the first companies to start the business of renting and leasing construction equipment.

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By the 1970s, having grown the company and increasing the work force, the Abeles were making a major impact in the area. One past employee said that Ken and Thelma were "all business and they strived for perfection, encouraging those around them to do so as well." The company had grown from a machine shop, and was then positioned to become a part of the major heavy construction equipment business.

Ken and Thelma had two sons, Warren and Rod, who became the fourth generation of the family business. By the 1970-1980s they became an integral part of the business and its development. Ken and Thelma retired in 1983, and leadership was put in the hands of their sons. During the 1980s, the company began increasing its industrial product lines of earthmoving, material handling and demolition equipment. During this time to present there has been a tenfold increase to the point where the company now conducts business internationally.

Under their leadership, the company saw increases in staff, employing several mechanics in servicing large and small construction equipment. Many come from various backgrounds, and in the words of one employee; "You're more than a number here, the Abeles want you to be part of the family."

As in its past, Abele has been there for its community in times of crisis and need. Often the company is one of the first responders to disasters in the northeast and was there following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Abele has also played major roles at various times of flooding of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, and surrounding areas including the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011.

Presently, the company is seeing its fifth generation of family entrepreneurship. In the late 1980s, the company employed Jeff Abele the son of Rod and Sharon Abele. As a team, Warren, Rod and Jeff have continued to grow and diversify Abele's equipment fleet. It has seen expansion in property both at its original location on Everett Road and further south at the Port of Albany. Abele Tractor is moving into the future with sales throughout the United States and many foreign countries.

Abele's mission statement is, "to be committed to making sure that every customer is treated like our only customer." With this in mind the company is in a position to continue business in the twenty-first century.

Left to right: Matt, Jeff, Sharon and Rod Abele, Jim Overacker and Lou Taylor, 2012.

One of Abele’s equipment yards, 2012.

Left to right, front row, Frank Wilkins, Jeff Capullo, Tom Picard, Rich Heffernan, Jim Overacker, Carl Burnham, Jeff Snyder, Bob Thoma, Mary Lang, Matt Abele, Sharon Abele, Rod Abele, Jeff Abele, Derek Wilkinson, Gary Svensson, Willie St. Louis, Lou Taylor, Joel Rauf, Derek Melsheimer and Eric Muellecker. Back row: Peter Baker, Paul Bubb, Tammy Davis, Michele, Francisconi, Glen Sharpe, Chuck Stiffler and Joe Mangiardi. Not present: John Alberti, Les Alberti, Ken Baker, Jordan Byas, Rick Eldred, Rich Funk, Greg Hoffman, Lorraine LaCorte, Brian Mahar, Dave Mann, Josh Muellecker, Ian Petherick, Dan Plowinske, Dan Richards, Randall Semeiks, Ed Terrell, Tim Terrell and Dan Work.